Cheltenham Festival News

The 2023 JCB Triumph Hurdle: Stats, trends and big-race guide

Sun 1 Jan 2023

We give you the inside guide on the JCB Triumph Hurdle, the opening race on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Enjoy every moment live on Racing TV!

What Grade? Grade One What course? New Course What distance? 2m1f (eight hurdles).

Prize-money? £95,000 Ages For 4yo only Weights and Allowances: 11st, mares’ allowance of 7lb.

Sponsor: JCB

Key statistics and trends

 Vauban and Paul Townend strike in ast year's race (Photo: Dan Abraham /
Vauban and Paul Townend strike in ast year's race (Photo: Dan Abraham /

Irish hold sway

Irish trainers have won seven of the last 10 renewals and have provided 20 of the 30 runners to have finished in the first three over the last decade. Irish horses have comprised just 40% of the total runners in the race in the last 10 years.

Spring Juvenile pointer

Three Triumph Hurdle winners in the past decade won the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on their previous start (Our Conor, Quilixios and Vauban) while 21 Spring Juvenile runners since 1997 went on to place in the Cheltenham race.

Don't expect market surprises

Since the creation of the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in 2005, the Triumph Hurdle has become a much tighter affair with fewer major surprises, especially in more recent years.

Favourites have dominated the race in the last few seasons, with Vauban the fourth winning jolly in the past eight years. That number would be higher still but for Goshen coming down at the last when miles clear in 2020, while Sir Erec very sadly suffered a fatal injury when yet to be asked a question in the 2019 race.

Since 1997, backing each of the 25 favourites would have got you seven winners at a 28% strike-rate with a level stakes profit of £5.75. In that same timeframe, 26 of the 54 favourites, second favourites and joint-second favourites finished in the places.

Note Gordon Elliott runners

The Irish trainer has a particularly good record in the race and over a period of time. From 12 runners, he has two wins while four more have been placed. Three of those runners (all unplaced) were priced at 40-1 or bigger, too. Quilixios, the 2021 winner, was in Elliott's care but was transferred to Henry de Bromhead's yard by owners Cheveley Park Stud on the eve of the meeting.

Willie Mullins has won two of the last three runnings, but his overall record of three winners and nine placed from 39 runners since 1997 is more modest overall by the mighty standards set at Closutton. Nicky Henderson has a good record with five winners and five placed from 32 runners since 1997, though surprisingly he has not been represented in the race since 2019 when his Pentland Hills won it.

2017 November Meeting - Day Two - Cheltenham Racecourse
2017 November Meeting - Day Two - Cheltenham Racecourse

Lightly-raced - but not too much! - hurdlers to the fore

Zarkandar (2011), Pentland Hills (2019) and the fortunate Burning Victory (2020) are the only horses to have won the race after one previous start over hurdles. Soldatino won after one British run over hurdles but had run previously over flights in France.

Conversely, jumping experience is not necessarily an advantage in the JCB Triumph Hurdle since 2005. The arrival of the Fred Winter has taken away the 20+ runner-field sizes in this race and subsequently provided more racing room and less hard-luck stories.

Since 2005, runners with three previous hurdles runs or more have seven wins from 169 runners (27 more placed at a win and place strike-rate of 20%).

Triumph Hurdle history

The JCB Triumph Hurdle was first run at Hurst Park in 1939 and transferred to Cheltenham in 1965 upon the closure of the London course. The race was moved to The Festival in 1968.

The contest has only had three sponsors since transferring to Cheltenham, with the Daily Express backing it from 1965 to 1996, and then the Elite Racing Club sponsoring from 1997 to 2000. JCB has backed the race since 2002.

Wth the race restricted to four-year-olds, the contest has effectively become the championship of British juvenile hurdling and three winners have progressed to victory in the Unibet Champion Hurdle, most recently Katchit, who in 2008 added a Champion Hurdle victory to his success in the 2007 JCB Triumph Hurdle.

The shortest-priced winner was Attivo, owned by the legendary BBC racing commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who obliged at odds of 4-5 in 1974.

Recent renewals of the JCB Triumph Hurdle

2022 - Vauban

The exciting prospect impressively sprinted home in a winning start for favourite backers and in a Irish clean-sweep of the places in the opener for jockey Paul Townend, trainer Willie Mullins and owners Rich and Susannah Ricci.

Vauban (6-4F) was still on the bridle as he eased a length clear approaching the last and, while he made a hash of it, he soon regained his momentum and drew readily clear from Fil Dor in second and Pied Piper in third.

Mullins suggested that we were dealing with a future Champion Hurdle contender, while the trainer also suggested Vauban could contest a high grade on the Flat with Cup races and even a Melbourne Cup tilt possible further down the road.

“He has a lot of ability and his Flat racing experience helped him," said Mullins.

"He could be a nice horse for the future. It is just inexperience (with his jumping), but he has got so much speed. “It was a great decision by Rich (Ricci) as I wanted to keep him as a novice for next season but he said no, we are going racing this season, so it is one up for him on that!"

2021 - Quilixios

Rachael Blackmore amazingly registered her sixth winner of a remarkable week as Quilixios upset short-prieced fancies Zanahiry and Tritonic in the JCB Triumph Hurdle for new trainer Henry de Bromhead and owners Cheveley Park Stud.

Under a typically astute ride from the outstanding jockey, Quilixios was always poised and took up the running before the turn for home to score by over three lengths from Adagio (10-1) in second and Haut En Couleurs (20-1) in third.

“It was straightforward," said Blackmore. "He knows his job, we got a nice tow into it and I was able to pick it up then after the second-last. I knew he would stay very well and he did that up the hill.

"All the work has been done with him in Cullentra, so it’s down to them really. I was very lucky to get on him today.”

2020 – Burning Victory

A dramatic renewal saw 5-2 favourite Goshen crash out at the final flight with the race at his mercy - leaving Burning Victory (12-1) to record an unlikely success at Cheltenham.

Ridden by Jamie Moore for his father, Gary, Goshen looked set to run out a brilliant winner when he approached the last well clear of the opposition, after surging ahead from two out. But he clipped the top of the last and then his back and front legs collided.

With Goshen gone, Paul Townend took his opportunity and the Willie Mullins-trained Burning Victory (12-1) stormed up the hill to score by two and three-quarter lengths. Aspire Tower was second, with Allmankind three-quarters of a length away in third place.

"I just feel very sorry for Gary and Jamie," Mullins said. "Jamie did everything right and rode the perfect race. He had the race in the bag and asked the horse all the right questions at the last, but the horse didn't answer and he just got unbalanced.

"I'm delighted we've won for our owner, but I feel hugely for Gary and Jamie - a father and son team. I know them fairly well, this was their one shot at a winner at the Festival and the work was done."

2019 – Pentland Hills

Nicky Henderson continued his fine record in the JCB Triumph Hurdle as Pentland Hills, winner on hurdles debut at Plumpton 18 days earlier, landed the Grade 1 highlight under Nico de Boinville for the Owners Group at 20-1. This was a record seventh victory for the trainer in the race.

Keen in the early stages, Pentland Hills aired the first hurdle and his rider was nearly out of the side-door before staging an excellent recovery. However, he made ground down the back straight and travelled noticeably strongly into the straight, coasting to the last and finding readily up the hill to beat Coeur Sublime (20-1) in second with Gardens Of Babylon (9-1) back in third. The race was sadly marred by the fatal injury of the hugely-promising Sir Erec.

“Sir Erec was a gorgeous horse, just stunning. Your heart goes out to them,” said Henderson.

On his winner, the trainer added: He nearly fell at the first. I was then thinking ‘Nicky Henderson, I’m not sure it is a good idea’, but then the rest was very good.

“I think he was only rated in the 70s on the Flat and I thought we were being a bit brave. When he won at Plumpton I was very impressed with him. He was so professional racing, and professional jumping.”

2018 - Farclas

The Irish juggernaut rolled on to Gold Cup day when 9-1 chance Farclas led home a one-two-three for the Emerald Isle with a gritty performance.

The grey gelding was making it third time lucky, having finished second in two previous starts, and was givig trainer Gordon Elliott a seventh winner at the meeting and jockey Jack Kennedy a fourth in the ever-familiar colours of Gigginstown House Stud, who dominated in 2018.

It was Ireland's 16th winner of the week.

Apple's Shakira, the Nicky Henderson-trained 6-5 favourite, was too keen and faded to be fourth.

Winning owner Michael O'Leary said: "He's only run twice and been beaten twice, so it's one of those nice days where if he hadn't have won, we'd have kept him a novice for next year, but we're very, very happy to win the Triumph with him.

"He settled and he's getting stronger and stronger. Gordon has always loved him."

2017 Defi Du Seuil:

Defi Du Seuil took his 100 per cent record over jumps to six with an impressive victory, just as the punters who sent him off the 5-2 favourite were hoping.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson always looked happy on the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding as Mega Fortune, Dinaria Des Obeaux and Evening Hush cut out the running.

Defi Du Seuil, wearing the first colours of owner JP McManus, cruised through to challenge at the second-last flight and was switched to race towards the stands’ rail.

He soon took command and pulled clear on the run-in to score by five lengths from Mega Fortune, who held Bapaume by a short head for second.

Johnson, who came in for the ride after injury forced Barry Geraghty to miss the meeting, said afterwards: “I was a passenger all the way to be honest, he travelled and jumped. All credit to Philip, he’s handled him brilliantly all year. He travelled so well and I was just trying not to get there too soon.”

2016 Ivanovich Gorbatov:

Ivanovich Gorbatov gave Aidan O'Brien his first Festival winner since the mighty Istabraq when storming home to justify favouritism, but in reality it was his son Joseph who took the plaudits.

Only recently retired from riding, O’Brien jnr had been supervising the young hurdler's preparation ahead of getting his full training licence months later.

He said: “It's unbelievable, I don't think it's sunk in yet. It's very hard to put into words what I'm thinking right now. I was very hopeful but Barry was more confident than anyone, he rode him the last day and was happy to put a line through it, he just said the ground was to blame.”

Ivanovich Gorbatov, owned by JP McManus, was giving jockey Barry Geraghty his first success of the week and made up for his loss at Leopardstown to defeat two horses from the all-conquering Willie Mullins stable, with Apple's Jade beaten a length and a quarter in second and Footpad six lengths away in third.

2015 Peace And Co:

Heavily-backed favourite Peace And Co proved a popular start for Gold Cup day as he led home a one-two-three for Nicky Henderson, the sixth time he had taken the contest since his first win with First Bout 30 years earlier.

Peace And Co followed up a stunning British debut at Doncaster with a more workmanlike effort at Cheltenham in January. But confidence was high and, sent off the 2-1 market leader for his biggest assignment, Peace And Co travelled powerfully throughout in the hands of Barry Geraghty.

His previously unbeaten stable companion Top Notch would not go down without a fight though, and Hargam was also in the mix under AP McCoy to make it a Henderson wave of three approaching the final obstacle. Each of them cleared it well and although Top Notch led halfway up the run-in, Peace And Co reeled him in.

“These have been three really good four-year-olds and have looked the best all the year through,” said Henderson.

"Any one of them could have won in their own right and it's bad luck when you have to go beating up your own troops, but fair beer - this is the championship and that's what they're entitled to go for.”

2014 Tiger Roll:

Davy Russell delivered a big-race success in the Gigginstown silks weeks after losing his job as number one rider to the powerful operation as Tiger Roll scooted up the hill to score.

The Gordon Elliott-trained youngster looked to be going well all the way. He had Guitar Pete and Kentucky Hyden for company over the last, but Russell kicked him clear for a three-and-a-quarter-length win from the latter.

Tiger Roll made a winning debut at Market Rasen for Nigel Hawke, after which Gigginstown snapped him up.

On his first run for Elliott he had finished second to Guitar Pete in Grade One company, but Elliott had made it clear he was not afraid of taking on that rival again and he turned the form around in no uncertain terms.

Russell, who came in for the mount after Bryan Cooper was injured, said: "Gordon has done a marvellous job with this horse. It's only a third start in his career as he never ran on the Flat but Gordon had him on the button.”

Tiger Roll went on to complete an unusual Cheltenham Festival double three years later when taking the National Hunt Chase over four miles.

2013 Our Conor:

Our Conor put up a scintillating display to take the contest by an astonishing 15 lengths in the hands of Bryan Cooper. Never out of the first two, the Dessie Hughes-trained juvenile stretched his 100% record over jumps to four with an emphatic success.

The 4-1 chance simply skipped clear from the second-last to win unchallenged by 15 lengths from Far West with Sametegal a further two and a quarter lengths away in third.

He jumped the final flight superbly and stormed up the hill to run out the most impressive winner of the whole Festival.

Cooper said: “I've never had a feeling like that before in my life, I was there a mile too soon - I sat for as long as I could but nothing could come with me. We popped the last and then he just idled up the straight. He has some ability.”

Sadly, Our Conor was fatally injured back at Cheltenham the following year when falling at an early stage in the Champion Hurdle.

2012 Countrywide Flame:

Countrywide Flame sprang a 33-1 surprise for North Yorkshire-based trainer John Quinn and jockey Dougie Costello in a dramatic renewal.

There were several in with chances at the final flight, but it was Countrywide Flame who jumped it best to hit the front and gallop all of the way to the line.

Irish raider Hisaabaat (20-1) was beaten three lengths in second, with 5-1 favourite Grumeti another three-quarters of a length away in third and Dodging Bullets fourth.

Quinn said: "I'm surprised he won, but I expected him to run a good race as he's never run a poor race over hurdles yet. The one thing I was slightly worried about was whether he would jump round here at this speed, but he jumped brilliantly.”

The victory was a third Festival winner of the week for Yorkshire, after Malcolm Jefferson had completed a double 24 hours earlier.

2011 Zarkandar:

Zarkandar confirmed his status as the champion juvenile hurdler of the season as he scored for Paul Nicholls and Daryl Jacob.

The Azamour gelding sealed the race with a lovely jump at the last and he kept on up the hill to beat Unaccompanied (11-2) by two and a quarter lengths.

Grandouet travelled well for a long way but he was run out of it late on and finished third, with Sam Winner fourth.

Jacob said: “I have to thank the owners for keeping me on him after he'd won the last day at Kempton. He took me into the race so easy. I was very impressed with him the last day and he is very tough.”

Weeks later, Zarkandar sealed another Grade One success at Aintree and went on to take the Betfair Hurdle the following season.

2010 Soldatino:

Having only arrived at Nicky Henderson’s stable in January, Soldatino overcame his inexperience and a massive lead poached at the start by the aggressively-ridden Barizan.

At the top of the hill, Barizan had opened up a 25-length advantage, which was drawing gasps from the crowd who believed it to be unassailable.

Everything with the exception of the inexperienced Soldatino was cooked and so Barry Geraghty set off in lone pursuit, eventually reeling in the gallant Barizan after the last flight and going on to win by a length and a quarter.

“It was a long way to have to go and catch the other horse because he's only a baby and the gap was huge,” said Henderson. “Fair play to the second, you have to feel sorry for him.”

2009 Zaynar:

Equipped with cheekpieces for the first time, the Nicky Henderson-trained Zaynar produced a flying leap at the last which sealed success here from Walkon and Mourad.

Favourite Walkon had thrown down a determined challenge from the home turn and the sight of the two greys battling it out on the run-in thrilled the crowd.

“You only go for a big one at the last like that when you know you've got a bit in the tank and he was always going to hold on,” said winning jockey Barry Geraghty.

“He's a genuine horse, but he's laid-back and that's why we put the cheekpieces on. He was a good bit better today and, in a competitive race like this, you need every help you can get to travel.”

2008 Celestial Halo:

Leading owner Andy Stewart finally broke his duck at the Festival after a host of placed runners when Celestial Halo made all to score here.

It was Alan King, the trainer of the hot favourite and runner-up Franchoek who was among the first to congratulate Stewart. “I’m delighted you have had a Festival winner, but why did you have to pick this one?” he said.

A useful stayer on the Flat, Celestial Halo was making just his third start over hurdles, but went on to prove himself a really smart jumper, finishing a close second in the Champion Hurdle the following season.

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