Zubayr To Triumph For Nicholls

The final day of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival starts with the Triumph Hurdle (1.30pm), where backers have poured their cash on Ivanovich Gorbatov, despite his disappointing fourth at Leopardstown last month.

Gorbatov Backed To Bounce Back
Aidan O’Brien’s 4yo impressed on his hurdles debut over Christmas (2m, heavy), before heading back for a Grade 1 last month, where he never looked happy on bad ground, before eventually beaten almost 10l by Footpad. Things simply never went right on that occasion (also short of room), and the fact he was a good ground winner on the Flat suggests we could see a different horse at Cheltenham.

Ivanovich Gorbatov still has a bit to prove, and odds of 7/2 may not be for everyone, unlike his conqueror from Leopardstown, Footpad, who is surprisingly as big as 10/1. Willie Mullins’ gelding arrives here with a record of 3-4 since joining Mullins from France – his only defeat coming in a Grade 2 over Christmas when 8l behind stablemate, Apple’s Jade (16/1).

Footpad Well Priced At 10’s
Footpad made up for that defeat by landing the aforementioned Grade 1 last month (2m, heavy), where the application of headgear worked the oracle. Whether the hood works again remains to be seen…

but if it does, then he is well priced at 10/1.

As for Apple’s Jade, then considering she is the only horse to beat Footpad over hurdles, and remains undefeated herself in two outings, then her odds of 16/1 look big, though she does have an entry in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Nicholls To Strike Again For Brits?
Another factor that punters need to remember is that the Brits won 11 of the last 15 Triumphs, adding appeal to the chances of Paul Nicholls’, Zubayr (5/1). This ex-French performer made a winning debut over hurdles for Nicholls when sent straight into Grade 2 company at Kempton recently (2m, good to soft). That Grade 2 event has proven a solid guide for the Triumph down the years, and the manner of Zubayr’s 3l win when quickening smartly suggests he has a lot more to come.

Stablemate, Connetable (10/1), was off the mark for Nicholls in Listed company last month (2m, soft), and is on the upgrade, but is unproven on decent ground. Nicholls has also won the Triumph twice since 2008, while Alan King won it in 2005 and 2007, and could have another winner via Sceau Royal (7/1).

King To Rule Triumph Again?
This gelding also arrived via France at the start of the season, and is 4-5 for King (bar his disqualification at Chepstow in October). Although yet to face Graded company, he has impressed in smaller events, including one of the Triumph Trials over C&D. His jumping is getting better and he handles quicker ground, so shouldn’t be underestimated.

King also has Who Dares Wins (10/1), who won his first two over hurdles, including a Grade 2 at Doncaster (2m, heavy) in December, before disappointing in a trial here the following month. He had to give weight away on bad ground that day, and is entitled to bounce back on Friday.

Recommended Bets
Paul Nicholls has a decent record in the Triumph, and his Zubayr was mightily impressive in a solid trial at Kempton last month.

He has a smart change of gear, which will put him in good stead in a race as competitive as this.

*Prices correct at time of publication.