JCB Triumph Hurdle Betting

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The history of the JCB Triumph Hurdle predates World War II. The race was first held in 1939 at Hurst Park in Surrey. When that track closed in 1965, the event was relocated at Cheltenham as part of its April meeting under the sponsorship of the Daily Express. Three years later, the race joined the Cheltenham Festival Schedule in March and went without a sponsor until 1997, when the Elite Racing Club took up the title spot.

Following the cancellation of the Festival in 2001 due to a nationwide foot-and-mouth crisis, a new sponsor had to be located. That was when J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited, a global construction, demolition, and agricultural equipment company based in Rocester, East Staffordshire, stepped forward. The event has been known as the JCB Triumph Hurdle since 2002.

Today, the JCB Triumph Hurdle is the opening race of the fourth and final day of the Festival. It is a Class A Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race, only open to four-year-old novices. The distance is two miles and a furlong, including eight hurdles, on the left-handed turf of the Cheltenham New Course. The weight allocation is 11 stone even, with an allowance of 7 pounds for fillies.

During the race’s early days, horses trained in France demonstrated their dominance, claiming six of the first seven victories. Flat-racing phenomenon Lester Piggott rode Prince Charlemagne to victory here in 1954 as one of the twenty wins he posted over hurdle during his illustrious career as a jockey.

In the 20th century, jockey Jimmy Uttley was the only three-time winner of the Triumph Hurdle, succeeding aboard Persian War in 1967, England`s Glory in 1968, and Boxer in 1971. But the new millennium has witnessed a change of the guard, as Barry Geraghty rode Spectroscope to victory in 2003, followed by Zaynar in 2009, and Soldatino in 2010. The latter two were trained by Nicky Henderson, the contest’s leading trainer with five wins to date, starting with First Bout in 1985 and then Alone Success in 1987 and Katarino in 1999.

Widely viewed as the National Hunt’s leading event exclusively for juveniles, the JCB Triumph Hurdle has shown itself as a proving ground for futures stars of the sport. First-place hurdlers here have done especially well in subsequent runnings of the Champion Hurdle, with four of them having won both events. They include 1953’s Triumph Hurdle winner Clair Soleil, 1967’s Persian War, 1988’s Kribensis and 2007’s Katchit.

In 2011, £100,000 was established as the total prize pool, identical to its previous year’s level when Soldatino earned £57,010 for his first-place effort. That was an especially exciting race, as the winner stole victory from Irish-bred Barizan, who had led most of the race only to stumble at the last hurdle and finish in second.

Inexperience has often been the undoing of JCB Triumph Hurdle entrants. Many horses attempt to make the transition to hurdles here after lengthy careers on the flat, which has led to the start of the race being described as a “cavalry charge.” Although the safety factor was reduced from 28 to 24 in 2004, the race still attracts a fairly large field—typically 17 or 18 starters, although there have been as many as 23 in recent years and once as few as 14.

Punters and bookmakers characterize the JCB Triumph Hurdle as one of the more difficult Festival events to predict. Luck plays a factor, but so do odds, as a dozen of the last 17 winners, and all of the most recent six, have started among the top four in the betting. That said, favourites seem to be jinxed. Since 1989, only two of them have won—Mysilv at 2/1 odds in 1994 and Detroit City at 7/2 in 2006.

On the flip side of the betting coin, long odds have prevailed on numerous occasions, with Baron Blakeney (1981), Shiny Copper (1982), and Ikdam (1989) winning at 66/1. More recently, Spectroscope and Made In Japan paid 20/1 in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Among other trends to be aware of, six of the past seven winners held off on making their hurdling debuts until the preceding December-January. Of the last 17 winners, 15 of them were victorious their last time out and the same number had won at least twice over hurdles before Cheltenham.

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