Irish Saint Heads For Triumph Hurdle After Adonis Victory

Trial races can often be overhyped but the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle has provided a fountain of clues in recent years for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and Saturday’s renewal of the Kempton Park Grade Two may have helped paint a clearer picture of the four-year-old title, which takes place on the final day of this year’s meeting on Friday, March 15th.

Since the turn of the century, four winners have managed to use victory in the Adonis as a springboard to Triumph glory at Prestbury Park, with Snow Drop (2000), Penzance (2005), Soldatino (2010) and Zarkandar (2011) all etching their names in both crowns, but can Saturday’s winner Irish Saint emulate that quartet and progress to Cheltenham glory?

Sent off a 5/4 favourite for the Adonis, the Paul Nicholls trained Irish Saint appeared to have it all to do turning into the straight as Ruby Walsh became more and more active in the saddle, but the Ditcheat inmate gradually got rocking and rolling in the closing stages and eventually came upsides Vasco Du Ronceray.

Driven out after a good leap at the last flight, Walsh managed to cajole him past Nicky Henderson’s raider and he won by half-a-length which forced Bet365 to cut him to 12/1 for next month’s Triumph Hurdle, but with a strong bunch of four-year-olds set to line up at Cheltenham, he will need to produce a slicker effort than Saturday’s performance.

Outpaced in the middle of the race, Walsh had looked to be fighting a losing battle, but he showed he could well be a future stayer in the making as he was producing his finest work in the latter stages, as he reeled in Vasco Du Ronceray, who is 14/1 with Bet365 for the Triumph, and asserting late on.

A strong pace from the flag fall, the Triumph could well suit Irish Saint, but it’s debatable as to whether he possesses the required speed to be victorious in the race and there could well be a whole host of more attractive betting propositions in the current ante-post market for the 2m Grade One prize.

Irish Saint’s victory at the weekend saw Bet365 slightly trim Rolling Star’s price to 9/2 as he comfortably beat him in the Triumph Hurdle Trial on Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day and Henderson’s premier challenger for the crown could well be one of the leading contenders for the race and along with Far West (4/1) and Our Conor (9/2) is one of a trio of horses who spearhead the market with just over two weeks to go.

Vasco Du Ronceray may have finished a close second, but Henderson may opt to send him down the Fred Winter route, whilst Alan King’s mare L’unique (33/1 for Triumph) lost her unbeaten tag and looks to face a difficult task in reversing the form.

A potential improver from the race is Courtesy Call, who was making her hurdling debut for Henderson after a decent career on the Flat for Mark Johnston and having travelled well until the second last flight was just outclassed by the front two, but he is sure to improve and at 25/1 in the latest betting with Bet365 could be scribed into a few notebooks.

King Can Be Crowned With A Few Big Winners This Jumps Season

Although the National Hunt season looks set to be dominated once again by the Nicholls and Henderson yards, the Alan King stable at Barbury Castle in Wiltshire should not be overlooked and looks primed for a big season. King started his training career when assistant to the legendary David Nicholson and has gone on to gain a reputation as one of the National hunt’s leading names and amongst his runners are a number of Cheltenham Festival hopefuls.

To add credence to the optimism surround the King stable of runners is the fact that he is the latest trainer to be given the opportunity to train a horse bred by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, when he accepted the task from them of training Tuscan Gold last week. The four year old has huge potential and makes the transition to jumps after running on the flat for Sir Mark Prescott and heads to Barbury Castle with the intention of becoming a staying hurdler and he could be seen in novice company as soon as January.

King has 130 horses in training currently of which his best prospects for the coming months include the unlikely Flaming Charlie, in who King has immense faith in, despite being a seven year old who has gone wrong a couple of times already. King believes that this gelding has genuine class and will shine in when making his seasonal reappearance this week.

Obviously Medermit has been one of the stable stars over the last couple of seasons and although well beaten by Master Minded and Somersby in the Amlin 1965 Chase last weekend, he still has the ability to make a big impression in Grade One company this season. He has of course already won the Grade 2 Haldon Cup at Exeter and is a horse that made a big name for himself and King when second in the 2009 Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

King will also have high hopes that West End Rocker can get the better of the Aintree fences this year and become a realistic chance for the 2012 Grand National in April. Brought down at Bechers last season, this nine year old won two cracking staying handicap chases last season before his Aintree attempt and if he can find his rhythm then he will be a big danger in the world’s most famous race. Before that, King will likely give West End Rocker a run over Aintree’s fences in the Becher Chase later this month.

Five year old Invictus is another horse with huge potential and has already won a novice chase first time out this season. That win came in decent company at Hereford which saw him winning by 11 lengths despite being hampered a few fences from home.

Four year old juvenile, Montbazon, excited last season with several useful performances in Bumpers, one of which he won. Even the two that he was beaten in were by subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner, Cheltenian and then by Steps To Freedom, a winner in Listed Flat company and a subsequent Grade 3 Hurdle winner. Montbazon was also beaten on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham last week in the Listed Bumper but King won’t have been too unhappy as it is likely the four year old will have needed the run and remains a horse with a bright future.

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