Tote Win: £2.40 Tote Place: £1.40,1.80
Straight Forecast: £6.18 Exacta: £8.10
Jackpot: £7,219.24 carried forward to Market Rasen, 20th Feb
Placepot: £224.20, Pool: £115478.56, 375.88 winning tickets
Quadpot: £111.90, Pool: £5712.32, 37.75 winning tickets
An exciting finish to a feasible JCB Triumph Hurdle trial, although the very testing conditions are unlikely to be replicated at Cheltenham in March. The victor in a thrilling conclusion was Venetia Williams' HOUBLON DES OBEAUX, although he had to dig deep to reel in Third Intention after the final flight. Having hit the second flight, the winner was subsequently a little guessy at some of his obstacles. However he was travelling well in behind the leaders before the turn for home, but then looked in a little bit of trouble as the (even stronger travelling) Third Intention jumped to the front two from home. He had a two length lead jumping the last but paid the price for racing enthusiastically in the heavy ground and started to slow on the run-in. Perhaps that is harsh, he wasn't slowing as much, but he was collared by the winner who really found an extra gear on the run-in. This was no real surprise, given the way he had run on last time at Chepstow, but it was a heart-in-your-mouth time for those who had backed the gelding into 5-4 favouritism. Bookmakers generally left him unchanged for the Cheltenham contest, where he would in all likelihood struggle unless he got unseasonably soft ground. In any case, he needs to brush up on his hurdling a tad, although the experience here will have helped. The runner-up wouldn't have been in love with this ground, and deserves plenty of credit. He comprehensively turned the tables on Local Hero from their Cheltenham running (3lb better off today), and is not one to rule out for the big one. He should relish the strong pace and will be no back number. Local Hero was the major disappointment; he jumped out to his right throughout, and was the first of the big hopes to come under pressure. He was spent a long way out, but if this race hasn't 'bottomed' him then he is worth another chance on good ground; the worry might be that he looks a tad high in the handicap to win a Fred Winter but not quite good enough to win a Triumph. Kumbeshwar also ran below expectations, as he came under pressure a long way from home having been held up. He ran on ok but doesn't look classy enough to seriously compete at the Festival. Vosges dictated a steady early tempo but paid the price for a mistake as the race quickened, and he was quickly left behind.