Fusil Raffles Replaced by Adjali for Cheltenham Festival Triumph Hurdle

Tipsters Review - 01-Mar-2019


Fusil Raffles Replaced by Adjali for Cheltenham Festival Triumph Hurdle


As can often be the case in the world of horse racing, the fates can sometimes play a hand in the fortunes of even the most fancied steeds. The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner and taking place between Tuesday 12th and Friday 15th March, trainers and owners are making their final preparations for the 28 races that will be held at the showpiece event this year.

Aside from the main event of the 2019 Gold Cup on Friday, another of the Grade 1 national hunt races that always attracts plenty of attention is the Triumph Hurdle. Having trained no fewer than six previous Triumph winners, Nicky Henderson had initial doubts about a potential seventh in 2019, however, Fusil Raffles brought more confidence after an impressive recent win on Saturday 23rd February at Kempton in the Adonis Hurdle.

This exceptional Adonis Hurdle result at Kempton swiftly caught the attention of bookmakers and punters alike, with around 86% of betting for the Triumph Hurdle over the following days becoming focused on Fusil Raffles, leading to his odds being slashed from 33/1 to as short as 4/1 and the second favourite for victory at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, the same Kempton win would ultimately prove to be the four-year-old’s downfall.

Within 48 hours of winning the Adonis Hurdle, the Racing Post revealed disappointing news . Fusil Raffles had suffered a cut to his hind leg during the comfortable nine-length Kempton win, with the horse set to face a veterinary examination to determine the extent of his injury. Rather than take any risks, Henderson announced on Monday 25th that Fusil Raffles would be forced to miss out on the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, requiring at least a few weeks recovery time.

Forced Change of Plans

“It’s terribly frustrating and unfortunate, as I thought he was extremely impressive on Saturday,” lamented Henderson when speaking to the Racing Post, now that Fusil Raffles will miss out on competing in the Triumph Hurdle. “Ironically, the acts of God have done it to us two years running, as We Have A Dream was also forced to miss the festival,” he recalled of similar misfortune last year with another much-fancied runner.

Nevertheless, the injury and recuperation time required by Fusil Raffles has presented an unexpected opportunity for another horse, within the same stable, meaning that Henderson still has an outside chance of a seventh Triumph success. Likewise, it’s with another horse owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, as Adjali steps in as the late replacement and with positive form lately.

Adjali arrives in the running for the Triumph Hurdle with odds as short as 16/1 with many bookies, following a strong run against Daphne Du Clos and Countister at Kempton on Tuesday 26th February, filling Henderson with much more confidence. “I was pleased with Adjali because his last run [at Cheltenham] was disappointing and we’d nearly thrown him out of the equation,” the trainer explained.

The race which Henderson referenced was the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of January, in which Adjali finished third after being the pre-race favourite. The winner on that occasion and by a comfortable margin was Fakir D’oudairies, who will also be competing in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and is considered amongst the favourites at 5/1 odds. Undoubtedly, Adjali will need to produce a much stronger performance, if Henderson is to celebrate a coveted seventh Triumph victory.

Triumph Hurdle Favourites

The withdrawal of Fusil Raffles has inevitably affected betting markets in the build-up to the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, having received such strong backing from punters. By far the clear favourite to win is Sir Erec at 11/10 with many bookies and evens with some, which due to his excellent form in Ireland. Owned by JP McManus and trained by Joseph Patrick O’Brien, Sir Eric comfortably romped home at Leopardstown in February with a strong victory, beating rivals he will face again at Cheltenham, including Surin and Tiger Tap Tap.

Such potent national hunt form from Sir Erec makes predicting serious challengers extremely difficult, although Fakir D’oudairies is the current second favourite according to the bookies. Likewise, he’s also owned by JP McManus and trained by Patrick O’Brien, which means they have the two strongest horses amongst the line-up for the Triumph Hurdle. As mentioned previously, the straightforward recent win on the same course at Cheltenham makes this horse a genuine contender, with odds as short as 5/1 for the win.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sir Erec is the red hot favourite for the Triumph Hurdle...<br><br>Is he the banker of the meeting?<br><br>🤔 <a href="https://t.co/K0HV9MZb2N">pic.twitter.com/K0HV9MZb2N</a></p>&mdash; JumpsRacing.co.uk (@jumpsracingcouk) <a href="https://twitter.com/jumpsracingcouk/status/1098604093973639170?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 21, 2019</a></blockquote>

Quel Destin trained by Paul Nicholls has performed very well over the hurdles with six wins and one second from ten races, ahead of competing at the festival. The chestnut gelding could be a great option for those who look at the percentages, thanks to an 83% victory record with five consecutive wins from his last six races over the hurdles, plus a second place at Chepstow prior to that outstanding run of form.

Insofar as outside options go, there are a number of appetising possibilities. Also trained by Paul Nichols, Pic D’Orhy with odds as short as 10/1 might be a good option to place, at the very least, with the bay gelding showing strong form on the French hurdles circuit. Three wins and three seconds, all at Auteuil, is not to be sniffed at. Recent wins at Naas and Limerick, along with a third place at Cork, make Band Of Outlaws one to watch at 10/1 too. Prior to that, the bay gelding trained by Joseph Patrick O’Brien had performed well on the flat.



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