Never change: Henderson, McManus and Geraghty back for more in Triumph Trial
JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) | 2m½f | 3yo | RUK/ITV
Last year Apple’s Shakira burst on to the scene in the opening race of day two at Cheltenham with a performance so impressive that she went into the festival as one of the hottest favourites of the week.
Unfortunately for connections, and for punters who had put their faith in the filly, she came unstuck behind Farclas in the Triumph Hurdle, failing to repeat the efforts of Defi Du Seuil, who had won both this trial and the big race in March the previous season.
Twelve months on, the Apple’s Shakira team of Nicky Henderson, JP McManus and Barry Geraghty are back with another well-regarded short-priced favourite for the JCB Triumph Trial in the shape of Never Adapt.
"I like her a lot,” Henderson said. “She was pretty keen when she won in France but she won nicely and she has done everything well while she has been with us.
"As she won a race she can't come into a normal novice hurdle, so she might as well run in a race like this."
Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, who won the Triumph Hurdle in 2015 with the Henderson-trained Peace And Co, have another promising candidate for the race in the form of Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle winner Cracker Factory.
Trainer Alan King said: “He seems in good form after his very pleasing Wensleydale Hurdle win at Wetherby and is a progressive horse who should be suited by Cheltenham – he tends to stay on after hitting a flat spot and will find this course plays to his strength.”
While this race can sometimes lack strength in depth, that does not appear to be the case this year with the useful pair Montestrel and Quel Destin also taking their chance.
Montestrel came out on top when they met at Chepstow last month, but Quel Destin’s trainer Paul Nicholls feels his runner is well placed to turn around that form at least after winning at Kempton last time out.
“He needed his first run over hurdles and he improved a good bit from that to his second run,” he said. “I’d like to think we could turn the form around with Montestrel from the first run unless that horse is very good. It’s a tough race but I’m hopeful he’s going to run a good race.”
A good beginning for End
mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase | 3m½f | 5yo+ | RUK/ITV
Much was expected from The Worlds End last season, but try as he might he could not quite make it to the top in the staying hurdle division.
Fences could be a whole different matter for the Grade 1-winning hurdler, who impressed when charging to a 14-length victory on his chase debut at Chepstow last month.
He bids to follow up that performance in the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase, a race that has a rich history with the likes of Thistlecrack, Vicente, Wayward Prince and most recently Black Corton landing the prize.
The Worlds End’s trainer Tom George said: “He's really well and had a really good reappearance at Chepstow, where he jumped well. He likes better ground and we look forward to him running.”
Two trainers responsible for some of those talented recent winners are Colin Tizzard and Paul Nicholls, who are both represented again on Saturday.
Nicholls sends out Ibis Du Rheu, who had a truncated campaign over fences last season. “He’s had a few niggly problems and he wasn’t able to run too much last season. This is a good starting point for him and I’m sure he’ll be better for the outing,” the trainer said.
Thistlecrack was a thumping winner of this contest for Tizzard two years ago, before going on to capture the King George VI Chase at Kempton, but such lofty targets are not on the radar for stablemate Brynmawr.
Joe Tizzard, the trainer's son and assistant, said: "He's up against it on all form but he's ready for a run, there aren't many in the field and it's a starting point for him."
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