International Hurdle Tips: Pentland to power up the hill

Pentland Hills jumps the last on the way to Triumph Hurdle victory
Pentland Hills jumps the last on the way to Triumph Hurdle victory

Joe Tuffin previews Saturday’s Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham, an indicator for next year's Champion Hurdle, which is headlined by the return of last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner, Pentland Hills…

Pentland Hills’ much-anticipated seasonal debut will see him take on nine senior horses in a competitive - if not a bit lacklustre - International Hurdle, which features an interesting Southern Hemisphere raider…

It’ll be the first International Hurdle for seven years to not feature the old favourite The New One, opening a new chapter in the race’s history in which Nicky Henderson will be keen to headline.

He sends both Pentland Hills and Call Me Lord, both of whom are well-fancied for the Grade 2 event, and boast very strong form claims. Pentland Hills was last season’s star Juvenile - winning at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals - and could well pick up where he left off against these senior horses.

Call Me Lord is a Grade 2 winner in his own right, though, and made a more than adequate seasonal reappearance when second in last month’s Ascot Hurdle to If The Cap Fits, but he has yet to confirm his reputation as a novice from the 2017/18 campaign, and if Pentland Hills is the real deal - which many believe he is - then he’ll have plenty to find if he is to be entering the winners’ enclosure at his stablemate’s expense.

The Skelton brothers hold a strong hand, and send last season’s County Hurdle winner Ch’tibello, who at the time of writing is the second favourite for this. There is suspicion his form lacks depth, however, and although it is impossible to put a line through a recent Festival winner, there are plenty with stronger claims throughout the field - not least from the Tizzard yard, who send Elixir De Nutz

The imposing five-year-old was a general 7/1 chance for last year’s Supreme Novice before injury ruled him out in the days prior, and his price in that market was more than justified given his victory in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown against the smart performer Grand Sancy. Admittedly, he’s got an absence of 343 days to overcome here, but even a hint of a return to that form could see him go close.

Another to consider is Monsieur Lecoq, who will be looking to build on some good early season performances having won the Welsh Champion Hurdle and finished third behind Harambe (first) and Gumball (second) in the Greatwood Hurdle at the November meeting, and the latter lines up here at an easily backable price.

Gumball has always looked like a horse that could scoop some nice prizes in his career, but as of yet has fallen short. He has however won a listed event this term, and, as previously mentioned, was a neck second here last month so has to enter calculations.

One of the most eye catching entries of the ten-strong field is that of Big Blue, who will fly the rarely-seen Australian flag for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace. Both were keen on sending a runner over to these shores after attending the festival in March, and this recent Galleywood Hurdle winner will be looking to kickstart the International dream at 33/1. Australian success is not an unheard of sight round Pretsbury Park - the great Crisp sauntered to victory in the Champion Chase in 1971 - but there is no doubt he’s up against it here.

Finally, Le Patriote will be looking at bouncing back from a lonely fourth in the Coral Hurdle, while both Ballyandy and Umbrigado complete the field.

The most interesting bet in this race could be a reverse forecast, with both Pentland Hills and Elixir De Nuts making the most appeal from that perspective as a one-two. Both look a cut above the rest; Pentland Hills is the standout performer, and should Elixir De Nuts run well back from this long break, there is a strong possibility he could upset the odds and chase the favourite home in second.

Selection

Saturday 14th December 2019 - International Hurdle - Reverse Forecast;

  1. Pentland Hills
  2. Elixir De Nuts
International Hurdle
Pentland Hills silk

Pentland Hills

lost
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