Nicky Henderson’s French-bred four-year-old Peace And Co is all the rage at 7/4 for Cheltenham Festival Friday’s Triumph Hurdle after doing everything right in two winning runs since coming over from France in June.
Peace And Co’s co-owner Simon Munir had Triumph winner Soldatino five years ago, who was the second of three French-bred horses to win the race in a row between 2009-11, but the fact that it hasn’t been taken by one since should give favourite backers pause for thought here.
Another worry is Henderson’s horse’s super-short price; the past three winners of this have come in with 10/1, 4/1 and 33/1 SP’s, so backing a challenger at not much more than odds against seems an insensible strategy.
Add in the fact that Peace And Co’s form is incredibly tricky to read after winning both of his races under rules at odds on and there’s reason to go hunting for value.
Willie Mullins’ Kalkir can’t be ruled out at 12/1, despite the Ricci family animal finishing runner-up in each of his past two starts when a well-backed favourite.
Last year’s 10/1 winner Tiger Roll was seen off by Guitar Pete at Punchestown a month before claiming this 2m1f test, and Countrywide Flame had failed in his previous two attempts prior to his 3l victory in 2012.
All that being said, of even greater interest is Alan King’s 20/1 shot Pain Au Chocolat (top price with Ladbrokes), who was confirmed for the Triumph by owners the Million in Mind partnership after romping to a 5l win at Sandown in late January, his second in a row, at 5/4 favourite odds.
John Ferguson’s Devilment, who finished a two-and-a-quarter length runner-up to Pain Au Chocolat in the French-bred gelding’s previous win at the start of January, has helpfully franked the form since with a couple of wins.
King took this valuable Grade 1 with Penzance and Katchit in 2005 and 2007, so another big-price springer claiming the Triumph may well be on the cards.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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