1pt win Zubayr @6/1, 0.5pt win Leoncavallo @25/1, 13:30 Cheltenham

The Triumph Hurdle is the championship event for juvenile hurdlers, open to four-year-olds and run over two miles on today’s quick ground.

It often pays to follow the money horse, with the late Our Connor and Peace And Co obliged as short-priced favourites in recent years.

The money has flown all season for Ivanovich Gorbatov, trained by recently retired ex-Irish Champion Jockey Joseph O’Brien, but that horse blotted his formbook with a dud run at Leopardstown in February and he’s markedly weak in the market this morning despite supposedly getting his ground.

The money horse now is undoubtedly Paul Nicholls’s ZUBAYR, who isn’t the best price at 6/1 with Boylesports but he appears to have all the right credentials and carries a lot of stable confidence.

He looks to follow in the footsteps of Nicholls’s Zarkandar, who won the Adonis at Kempton on his British début before landing the Triumph.

Zubayr won the Adonis last month on his own British racecourse bow, travelling and jumping like a class horse and winning with plenty in hand.

It was a striking performance and he seems sure to improve for it, which really would give him an outstanding chance given the division has failed to serve up too many leading candidates this season.

Connections feel confident of a big run and have him as the pick of their strong juvenile squad – Nicholls also had a 1-2 in the other big juvenile race, the Fred Winter, so the squad is very strong.

“My head lad Clifford Baker thinks could be very special as a hurdler and the best of them at this stage.

I did wonder for a few days if Zubayr had too hard a race at Kempton which might have knocked the edge off him. But he has turned inside out in the past couple of weeks, is in sparkling form at home, and I’ve been thrilled with his schooling sessions.

He does have to overcome inexperience as this will be a bit different to taking on eight runners at Kempton.

But I am hopeful that he emulate Zarkandar who won the Adonis in the way to landing the Triumph Hurdle.”

Paul Nicholls

It’s just not been a week to take on favourites and Zubayr can get Friday off to a bad start for bookmakers.

The other horse we really like despite the seemingly poor form of the Alan King stable is our 16/1 ante-post selection Sceau Royal, who now trades a steady 8/1.

I wouldn’t put you off backing him at that price as King sounds confident, and his slick jumping and good Cheltenham form stands him in good stead.

Beware LEONCAVALLO though, who crashed out at the last when upsides of Sceau Royal at Cheltenham on his last start and boasts some very strong form on good ground.

At 25/1, he’s a much bigger price and might be the value angle into the race and worth siding with too.

1pt win Zubayr @6/1 with Boylesports, 13:30 Cheltenham
1pt win Sceau Royal @16/1, 13:30 Cheltenham [ante-post]
0.5pt win Leoncavallo @25/1 with Sportingbet, 13:30 Cheltenham

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