Cheltenham Ready – Adrian Wall takes aim at a “potential monster” in the Triumph Hurdle

Nico de Boinville celebrates after winning the Triumph Hurdle

Trainer Ellmarie Holden had an extremely quiet season up until the tail end of December. She is a brilliant trainer but had not saddled a single winner for the season up to that point. Form is temporary and class is permanent, however.

There were signs that the yard was about to explode into life when Darwell Lion won at Lingfield on the 22nd of December. Not only was that Holden’s first winner of the season, it was also her first British winner.

She may well have her second British winner at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Connections have a very live Triumph Hurdle contender on their hands following French Aseel‘s hugely impressive debut for the yard at Leopardstown on the 27th of December.

French Aseel was formerly trained on the Flat in France and was purchased at the sales for €62,000. Backed from overnight odds of 25-1, he was smashed off the boards right into 7-2 favourite. Someone certainly knew that a big run was coming.

Monster in the making

He was prominent throughout in the hands of Denis O’Regan, jumping beautifully and travelling like a dream. When asked to lengthen, he did so in incredibly impressive fashion and ran out a 22-length winner of the 2m maiden hurdle for three-year-olds.

Bookmakers obviously cut French Aseel quickly and he is now best priced 7-1 for the Triumph Hurdle with bet365. However, the horse has recently been moved to the Willie Mullins camp and will run in the famous Al Boum Photo and Shishkin silks.

Owner Paul Holden said: “He’s a nice horse. We bought him at Arqana earlier in the year. He won over 1,600 metres [1m] in France and handles soft ground as well. We were just waiting to get him right for a juvenile hurdle because we knew he had ability. We’ll look for a Graded race now.”

The current favourite for the Triumph is the Gordon Elliott-trained Zanahiyr. He is entitled to plenty of respect for winning a Grade 2 in good fashion. However, I like to think that I know a potential monster when I see one. French Aseel wins the Triumph.

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