Paul Nicholls hasn’t schooled a Triumph Hurdle winner since Zarkandar in 2011, but his yard is represented remarkably well for the 2016 edition with six runners, including two of the first four in the betting, so that might be about to change.
Zubayr is the 5/1 second favourite and having followed in Zarkandar’s juvenile hoof prints by claiming the notable Adonis Hurdle trial in the build up to Cheltenham, it’s easy to see why.
However, by the very nature of this coming-of-age test, there are plenty of precocious four-year-olds down the betting who have compiled CV’s worthy of attention over the season.
One such, among the cluster of impressive French-bred Nicholls hopes for the race is Clan Des Obeaux, at 16/1.
With only the first four in the betting – which contains stable mates Zubayr and Connetable (9/1) – boasting single figure ante-post odds, this price hardly slams the door shut on Clan Des Obeaux’s chances, especially in each-way terms.
What makes it easy to bang the drum for this animal is not his debut hurdles win this season, but his close course-and-distance second to Protek Des Flos (12/1) in the Finesse Hurdle at the end of January when conceding 4lbs .
The Finesse has proved a telling indicator for Triumph success in prior renewals, with Peace And Co the last claimer of those laurels when winning it en route to Festival glory in 2015.
Sam Twiston Davies was on board Clan Des Obeaux at Cheltenham when losing out by a length to Nicky Henderson’s Protek Des Flos, a subsequent winner at Sandown in the build up to the Prestbury Park showpiece and the jockey has subsequently implied better ground could aid him.
Other than proven course form to point at as well, four of the past seven Triumph Hurdle winners began their careers across the channel and only three of the last 11 winners had been exposed to more than three runs over the smaller obstacles previously.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.