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Thursday 25 May 2023

Race Focus: Finale Juvenile Hurdle

The Finale Juvenile Hurdle is a Grade 2 juvenile hurdle run over 2 miles and 11 yards at Chepstow in late December. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to horses aged three years, at least if run as scheduled. However, in the event of postponement to the following January – which has happened five times since 2010, due to waterlogging – the race is restricted to horses aged four years, since all horses born in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate their birthday on January 1.

Currently sponsored by Coral, the Finale Juvenile Hurdle was, until August 2022, the only Grade 1 race run at the Welsh track and one of just three races of its kind in the whole of the British National Hunt calendar. At that stage, it was downgraded to Grade 2 by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) as part of an annual review of the National Hunt Pattern.

Nevertheless, the Finale Juvenile Hurdle remains a significant trial for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with Defi Du Seuil, in 2016/17, the last horse to complete the double. The 2023 winner, Comfort Zone, trained by Joseph O'Brien, went on to win the Finesse Juvenile Hurdle, run over the same course and distance as the Triumph Hurdle, and is currently quoted at 10/1 for that race and the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Martin Pipe saddled four winners of the Final Juvenile Hurdle, namely High Knowl (1986), Enemy Action (1988), Hopscotch (1990) and Rainwatch (1997) and, more recently, Nicky Henderson has done likewise, courtesy of Mister Banjo (1999), Nas Na Riogh (2002), Blue Shark (2005) and We Have A Dream (2017). Jointly, the two legendary handlers are the leading trainers in the history of the race, which was first run in 1971.

Friday 12 May 2023

Dead Cert?


2/9 favourite unseats jockey at the last. It just goes to show that there's no such thing as a dead cert!