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Look to Adonis Hurdle for Cheltenham Festival Clues
22/02/13

When you think of Cheltenham trials, the Adonis Hurdle isn't one of the most obvious races to turn to for Festival clues but the two mile juvenile contest has produced a number of useful performers down the years that have gone on to Cheltenham Festival glory.

Irish Saint
© Racehorse Photos

Irish Saint

Three of the last eight winners of the Adonis have gone on to win the Triumph Hurdle less than a month after victory at Kempton. These include Penzance in 2005, Soldatino in 2010 and Zarkandar in 2011. In addition to this trio, other familiar names that have run the race en route to better things include Binocular who went on to finish second after winning the Adonis for his trainer Nicky Henderson in 2008 before going on to win the Champion Hurdle two years later and is once again in contention for Festival glory again this year.

Punjabi won the Adonis in 2007 before only managing fourth in the Triumph Hurdle that season but like his Seven Barrows stablemate, Binocular, went on to win the Champion Hurdle two years later. Well Chief is another name that National Hunt fans will know about after winning the Arkle in 2004 and finishing second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2005. Before that, the David Pipe trained runner had finished second in the 2003 Triumph Hurdle just three weeks after winning the Adonis.

Whether the winner of the 2013 Adonis will go on to replicate the achievements of those predecessors remains to be seen but there are a couple of intriguing entries that are worth a closer look ahead Saturday's race.

Since Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson have accounted for five of the last six winners of the Adonis between them, it is worth concentrating on the entries of the leading duo. Paul Nicholls has just one entry in this year's renewal, Irish Saint, who was an impressive 18 length course and distance winner back in December. There was no shame in defeat to Nick Henderson's highly promising Rolling Star last time out at Cheltenham in January and with Ruby Walsh doing the steering, the four year old should be capable of giving a good account of himself and is a 25/1 chance for the Triumph Hurdle before Saturday's race.

Nicky Henderson saddles two runners in the race, stable jockey, Barry Geraghty, takes the ride on Vasco Du Ronceray whilst David Bass is on board Courtesy Call, who is making his debut over obstacles after a successful career in handicap company on the flat for Mark Johnson. Vasco Du Ronceray is a French Import at Seven Barrows and has mixed fortunes since making the trip across the Channel. A winning debut at Hereford in November was followed up by defeats at Cheltenham and Doncaster on his last two starts. He's clearly a prospect for which Henderson has high hopes but has something to prove if he's to be considered a serious Triumph hurdle Contender. Jockey bookings suggests Vasco Du Ronceray is the stable's number one hope in the race but it would be no surprise to see Courtesy Call make a big impression on his first run for his new yard but with no form to go off, it's guess work at this stage and the current 40/1 for Triumph Hurdle success in a few weeks time could be a fair reflection or huge price if you're willing to take the risk for some last minute ante post value before the off.

The Gary Moore trained Chris Pea Green is also worthy of a mention after three victories from four starts over hurdles this season. He may not have run in the same company as the fellow principles but he has been impressive nonetheless and could be capable of upsetting the Nicholls/Henderson stranglehold on this race. He holds entries in the Fred Winter and the Triumph Hurdle, for which he is available to back at 18/1 and 25/1 respectively and certainly commands respect in both the Adonis and Cheltenham ante post markets.

2012 - Baby Mix
2011 - Zarkandar - went on to win the Triumph Hurdle
2010 - Soldatino - went on to win Triumph Hurdle
2009 - Hebridean
2008 - Binocular - finished second in the Surpeme that season before going on to win Champion Hurdle in 2010
2007 - Punjabi - fourth in Triumph Hurdle but went on to win the Champion Hurdle in 2009
2006 - Kasbah Bliss
2005 - Penzance - went on to win the Triumph Hurdle
2004 - Trouble at Bay
2003 - Well Chief - second in Triumph before going on to win Arkle

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