Trainers increasingly try to bring fresh horses to the Cheltenham Festival, with corresponding consequences. They will make an urgent exception, however, for novices still in need of experience – and a shake-up is guaranteed today in betting on the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
The last two winners of that race did not make their British debut until the William Hill Adonis Hurdle, which opens proceedings at Kempton. It would be nice to see Sadler's Risk emulate their example, as Philip Hobbs could do with a tonic after an untimely setback to the best young horse in his stable. Fingal Bay, unbeaten favourite for the Neptune Investment Novices' Hurdle at the Festival, is undergoing physiotherapy and for now rated "unlikely" to recover in time.
Sadler's Risk made an immaculate start over timber when a 17-length winner over course and distance. But while Dildar (2.00) was far less striking at Taunton, he left the strong impression that he will prove capable of much better for that experience.
A couple of other Triumph candidates instead keep the company of older novices later on the card. Dodging Bullets, a stablemate of Dildar, is also highly regarded but Grumeti (3.40) should prove too streetwise on his fourth start over hurdles. Awarded the race in the stewards' room at Cheltenham last time, he had been committed earlier than his challenger and the way he had travelled suggested he will be very hard to stop round this sharper track.
Minsk has held his place alongside Grumeti and Sadler's Risk in the Triumph market despite never leaving the ground in public. He does so for the first time at Fairyhouse today, and the poor creature will do very well to avoid disappointing somebody.