Dessie Hughes-trained gelding Guitar Pete blew the market for the Cheltenham Festival Triumph Hurdle wide open when landing a Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown ahead of three rivals for top honours this spring.
Under jockey Barry Geraghty, Guitar Pete defied third-favourite’s odds of 9/2 to see off 16/1 second Tiger Roll by two and a quarter lengths .
Aidan O’Brien’s Plinth and Willie Mullins’ Ivan Grozny, who went off at 9/4 and 9/10 favourite, finished six lengths and seven and a half lengths behind the winner respectively, which led to both drifting in the betting for the first race on Cheltenham Festival Friday.
Mullins’ inmate, who had been vying for favouritism prior to his latest run, was eased out to 14/1 after the race, while a first festival win for flat king O’Brien since Istabraq in 2000 looks less likely with Plinth now 16/1 to take the Triumph Hurdle.
Ivan Grozny had been heavily backed for Cheltenham glory in recent weeks, but his two previous runs outside France were more solid than spectacular and despite Mullins’ incredible recent record over hurdles at the festival, the County Carlow handler hasn’t readied a Triumph winner since Scolardy back in 2002.
The Wylie family would have hoped for improvement from their novice, but Ivan Grozny was undone by Hughes’ impressively steady performer, who’s won four of his six runs over hurdles and finished runner-up in the other two.
Both horses are unbeaten in two runs apiece over hurdles in England and the Nicholls horse enhanced his festival claims with a five length win at Newbury, while Williams’ inmate romped home by 10l in a Triumph Hurdle trial recently.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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