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Can 2012 Renewal of the Adonis Continue The Race's Reputation For Producing Festival Winners? 23/02/12

One of the feature races on Kempton Park's racecard this Saturday is the Adonis Hurdle, a four year juvenile Hurdle, that on first sight of the entries would not necessarily have you drooling but a quick look at the past winners of the race would soon confirm that it has acted as a stepping stone to up and coming hurdlers, most of which have the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next month in their sights.

Sadler's Risk looks the one to beat
© Racehorse Photos

Sadler's Risk

Notable past winners of the Adonis include Well Chief in 2003, who finished second in the Triumph Hurdle but went on to win the prestigious Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase at the Festival. Another recent great was Punjabi, who, like Well Chief, landed the Adonis before finishing second in the 2007 Triumph Hurdle before winning the Champion Hurdle in 2009. Binocular won this race in 2008 before re-throwing Punjabi of his Champion Hurdle crown in 2010.

Six of the last 20 Adonis winners however did go on to claim the Triumph Hurdle, including the last two renewals, Zarkandar last year and Soldatino in 2010. Whilst it is fair to say that Soldatino has struggled since his Cheltenham success, Zarkandar looks an exciting prospect and is amongst the favourites to win this season’s Champion Hurdle.

As such, given the race's reputation for producing winners at the Cheltenham Festival, it is worthwhile taking time to note the leading contenders for this weekend's renewal.

Trainers boasting a strong record in the race include Nicky Henderson, who has saddled four winners since 1999, including Soldatino, Punjabi and Binocular in the last five years. Alan King saddled back-to-back winners in 2004 and 2005 and Paul Nicholls has two wins to his name with Hebridean in 2009 and Zarkandar 12 months ago.

Henderson intends to run two of his top juveniles in this latest renewal, one is Lyvius, a German import who is owned by Trevor Hemmings and who won his only start over hurdles at Kelso last week. Henderson was pleased with the run but was not totally convinced by his hurdling and it is thought that this race will provide a more clear picture regarding his readiness ahead of Cheltenham. The second Henderson entry is Une Artiste, another who won his only start on British soil at Haydock last weekend and like Lyvius, is sure to come on for his seasonal debut and will benefit from another run before heading to the Triumph.

Grumeti
© Racehorse Photos

Grumeti
One of the more likely favourites for the Adonis is the Alan King entry, Grumeti, the short head winner of the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham at the end of January. It was his second victory over hurdles but he did fall in his second outing when eight lengths clear, two out, at Newbury when going off as the 8/15 odds on favourite but this former Michael Bell trained handicapper on the flat certainly has shown enough on his three starts over obstacles to feature prominently on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls will be hoping to follow up his success in this race twelve months ago with his French bred, Dildar, already one of the major fancies for the Triumph Hurdle in March. He won his only start at Taunton in January and will no doubt improve for that run. He is certain to feature high in the betting for this race and if he confirms his reputation, he is likely to be the clear favourite for the Triumph in three weeks time.

Another exciting prospect comes in the form of the Phillip Hobbs trained, Sadler’s Risk, who hosed up by 17 lengths in his only start to date which came a month ago over course and distance. He showed blistering speed and the manner of victory that day was enough to see him disputing favouritism for the Triumph Hurdle and defeat in this would have to be considered a setback. This is a much tougher assignment than his debut but this son of Sadler's Wells certainly set the standard and with much dependent on reputation rather than the limited form of these entries, Sadler's Risk looks the one to beat.

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