2021 Cheltenham Festival – Saint Sam Can Strike in Boodles Hurdle
2021 Boodles Juvenile Hurdle Tips
And still they keep coming. Lewis Tomlinson is rolling on with his ante-post previews and this time tackes the fiendishly difficult Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Formerly known as the Fred Winter, the race now closes Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival
Boodles Juvenile Hurdle Overview
The Fred Winter now concludes the Tuesday card and is likely to provide the biggest punting puzzle of the Festival’s opening day. Twenty plus juveniles in a fairly compressed handicap is tough stuff, especially from this far in advance, but it’s a fascinating race to get stuck into and often provides opportunities for big-priced swings if you’re that way inclined.
A good starting point would be to consider which horses are actually likely to turn up here. Adagio (7-1), favourite for this in some books, looks likelier to line up in the Triumph, whilst the form of Gordon Elliott’s pair Duffle Coat (10-1) is undoubtedly strong enough to merit a crack at the Grade 1.
So, who might we actually see line up?
Boodles Hurdle Key Contenders – Paul Nicholls Army
Paul Nicholls, a three-time winner of this race, looks to hold a strong hand. Hacker Des Places (16-1), a 32 length winner at Wetherby on his second British start, represents the 11-time Champion Trainer, as do the pair of greys Houx Gris (16-1) and Hell Red (16-1). Houx Gris was bought for €200,000 after winning at Auteuil in October and made a pleasing debut for Nicholls when third in the Chepstow’s Grade 1 Finale in January, whilst Hell Red is better judged on his facile Chepstow victory early in the season than on his disappointing effort at Cheltenham after, the gelding having returned with a respiratory issue.
However, the market suggests the number one Fred Winter hope from Ditcheat may well be Good Ball (14-1), who finished runner-up to Gordon Elliott’s useful looking Fairyhouse winner Teahupoo (14-1) on his final start in France before beating several subsequent winners at Newbury over the Christmas period.
Like Nicholls, Ellliott has also won three renewals of the Fred Winter, and Teahupoo could be joined by his stablemate, the filly Riviere D’Etel (20-1), who cantered clear to win on her debut at Punchestown before acquitting herself with credit in better company at Navan.
Willie Mullins has the current favourite for the race in the shape of Saint Sam (7-1), who has shaped well on all three starts since joining Mullins. Despite having been no match for Zanahiyr and Quilixios this season, I think Saint Sam has shown a lot to like in Ireland this season, showing gradual improvement from run-to-run, and I was impressed by the way he stuck to his guns once headed by Quilixios in the Spring Juvenile at Leopardstown earlier this month, doing well to fend off the challenge of Joseph O’Brien’s Busselton (12-1) for second.
Busselton himself had finished ahead of Saint Sam when second in the Knight Frank at Christmas, though I’d be inclined to trust the form of the Spring Juvenile more, given that Saint Sam seemed largely inconvenienced by the way the pair’s first meeting panned out. That’s not to knock Busselton, though, and the pair both merit consideration, as they certainly hold the strongest formlines in the race; even discounting Quilixios, the distance Saint Sam and Busselton put between themselves and the previously smart-looking Youmdor and Ha D’Or last time would lead me to suggest they’re both nice types themselves, as opposed to Quilixios having only beaten vastly inferior opposition.
Dermot Weld enjoyed a fine 2020 due to the exploits of his triple-Group 1 winning filly Tarnawa, and the news that she’s staying in training for a five-year-old campaign next season is surely great news for flat fans. The great man’s jumps string has only consisted of three horses this season, but he could arrive at Cheltenham with a chance in the shape of Coltor (20-1), who broke his maiden at the third of asking at Naas last month. His hurdles debut had seen him finish second to the hugely exciting French Aseel.
More British contenders
Alan King’s Her Indoors (16-1), winner of a Listed fillies’ contest at Doncaster, and Dan Skelton’s Cabot Cliffs (16-1), who produced a career best to turn over useful flat recruit Sage Advice at Warwick last time, are other members of the British contingent available to back at shorter than 20-1.
Boodles Hurdle Big-Race Verdict
A hard enough race to call on the day, never mind from a month in advance but SAINT SAM is justifiably the market leader and if the British handicapper isn’t too harsh with his Irish tax – Saint Sam has been given a mark of 136 at home – he makes the most long-range appeal.
He’s probably done enough this season to justify a place in the Triumph line-up, though he’s clearly much likelier to win this. Lesser horses would have folded tamely after being on the front end for so long at Leopardstown less time, but Saint Sam toughed it out and the stiffer test of stamina at Cheltenham may suit him further.