The BetBright Adonis Juvenile Hurdle is the last recognised trial for four-year-olds with ambitions of heading to contest the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.
It has a habit of producing talented winners with two of the last 10 following up with victory in the Triumph at Prestbury Park. It’s an event that has favoured lightly raced youngsters rather than those with plenty of hurdling experience under their belt. Indeed, Zarkandar took the Grade 2 in 2011 on his hurdling debut before heading to Cheltenham three weeks later and winning the juvenile feature on just his second hurdles start.
A year earlier Soldatino was making his UK debut when taking the Adonis prior to winning the Triumph at the Festival.
Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have shared six of the last 10 renewals. They have become the dominant force in juvenile events in recent times, having also struck in five of the last 10 Triumph Hurdles. Those bred in France also feature strongly with six wins from the last 10 renewals. And juveniles contesting under a penalty have also fared well in recent years.
It pays to side with a fancied runner in the Adonis. The top two in the betting account for almost 70% of the winners over the past two decades. Favourites have a terrific record with 9 wins from the last 19 renewals. Zarkandar was the biggest odds winner in the past decade when sent off at 8/1.
Alan King’s Gibralfaro looks sure to go off favourite having impressed in his two hurdles wins to date. Though bred in Ireland, he arrived in King’s yard having run on the flat in France. He has plenty of racing experience and has taken well to the change in codes. He beat Nicholls’ Connetable at Ascot last time, and that form has taken a boost since. He is owned by the McNeill family, and their famous silks were carried to third in the Triumph Hurdle of 2012 by Grumeti.
Paul Nicholls has several entered with the shortest priced being the hurdles newcomer Zubayr. Formerly owned by the Aga Khan, he ran twice on the flat at Longchamp as a three-year-old before being purchased for a huge sum at the Arqana sales in July. Anthony Bromley of Highflyer Bloodstock along with Harold Kirk representing Willie Mullins and Tom Malone, on behalf of Paul Nicholls, were all bidding for this exciting youngster, and his hurdles debut has been eagerly anticipated.
Pilansberg is another possible newcomer from Ditcheat. Also arriving from France, he was group class on the flat and has some outstanding form in the book. He got to within two lengths of Erupt at Chantilly in June, and that colt went on to finish fifth in the Arc. If he can transfer that kind of form to his hurdling career he could be a really exciting prospect.
Of the remainder, it is always sensible to take note of any juvenile carrying the Munir-Souede silks. Nicky Henderson has a couple entered for connections, with Omessa Has looking the most likely to run. He has plenty of experience having run eight times at Auteuil in 2015. His form is solid rather than spectacular, and although his profile rather goes against the typical Adonis winner, he has to come under consideration when representing such powerful connections.
On what we have seen over hurdles thus far, Gibralfaro is the rightful favourite. However, I’ll be taking a chance with the Paul Nicholls newcomer Zubayr. Ditcheat’s expensive juvenile is finally set to be unleashed and we will find out if the huge outlay was money well spent.