The opening race on the Saturday of Cheltenham’s November Meeting is the Grade 2 Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
The race, registered as the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle, was first run in 1987 and, as the current name suggests, is a key preparation race for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the following March.
Triumph Hurdle Trial Past Winners
|2020||Duffle Coat||2/1||Gordon Elliott||Robbie Power|
|2019||Allmankind||11/4||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
|2018||Quel Destin||10/3||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|2017||Apple's Shakira||Evens||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2016||Defi Du Seuil||5/4||Philip Hobbs||Barry Geraghty|
|2015||Wolf Of Windlesham||12/1||Stuart Edmunds||Joshua Moore|
|2014||Golden Doyen||13/8||Philip Hobbs||Richard Johnson|
|2013||Royal Irish Hussar||10/11||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2012||Far West||15/8||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2011||Hinterland||6/4||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
About the Triumph Hurdle Trial: Key Festival Pointers
The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest meeting in the National Hunt season. Every trainer and owner in jumps racing wants to be able to land a winner at Cheltenham but it takes a huge amount of work for that to happen. There are so many different routes into each of the races at the Festival that it can be a little difficult to keep track but you’ll get no prizes for guessing which race the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle acts as a trial for.
The similarities in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle itself are many so it is always a race on which to keep a close eye. It is also a Grade 2 contest with a decent prize fund of over £30,000 that attracts entries from some powerful yards so it is more than just a stepping stone.
A Race of Many Names
The JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle was first run in 1987 as the Flowers Fine Ales Novices’ Hurdle. It went under many different names over the years including the Tom Albert Mines Memorial Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle, the Jet UK Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle and the Murphy’s Three Year Old Novices’ Hurdle before, JCB, the British manufacturing company, took over. In 2007, when a company called Cleanevent were the sponsors, the race was officially registered as the Prestbury Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle and that remains the case.
The name may have changed but the nature of the Prestbury Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle has remained much the same over the years. It has always been open to three year olds and the trip has only been increased by 87 yards from the original distance of two miles (racecards state the trip as two miles and half a furlong).
Three is a very young age for National Hunt horses. Even if this is not the most taxing race in terms of distance or the obstacles which must be navigated, it still often requires an unusually mature performance to win. Perhaps the most well-known horses who had enough to win the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle were The French Furze (Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner 2003), Al Eile (Aintree Hurdle winner 2005, 2007, 2008) and Katchit (Champion Hurdle winner 2008).
Success Doesn’t Always Breed Success
Of those three famous graduates, Katchit was the only one to follow up his win with success in the Triumph Hurdle itself at the Cheltenham Festival. Alan King’s charge was the second horse to complete the double after 1998 winner Katarino with Defi Du Seuil doing likewise when he won the 2017 Triumph Hurdle. Three winners in over 30 years to graduate to the main race doesn’t mark this out as a great Triumph Hurdle trial in all honesty. You can see the full record of Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle winners in the Triumph Hurdle in the chart below.
The main reason for the relatively poor record is that, very simply, the quality of horses competing in the actual Triumph Hurdle race is significantly higher. Some of those high class competitors have also had a taste of Cheltenham before their trip to the Festival which further reduces the efficacy of the trial in producing Triumph Hurdle winners. Moreover, these young horses are unpredictable so winning favourites are far from the norm in either race and even those who have the experience of the Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle can easily have an off day at the Festival.