The International Hurdle – Race Preview
Saturday sees the annual running of the International Hurdle at Cheltenham. The International Hurdle is a Grade 2 National Hunt hurdle race run over two miles and one furlong with eight hurdles jumped. Seen as a trial for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle, the International Hurdle has been won by a number of high-class horses over the years including Sea Pigeon, Archibald and Rooster Booster, with Rooster Booster being the last horse to win the International Hurdle and then the Champion Hurdle in the 2002-2003 season.
The current ante-post favourite for the International Hurdle is the Nicky Henderson trained Peace & Co. Winner of the Triumph Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, Peace & Co is undefeated over hurdles, winning all three of his races last year and success on Saturday would enhance his potential Champion Hurdle claims. Triumph Hurdle winners can struggle to follow-up their debut season with a strong second year campaign and it will be interesting to see if Peace & Co can buck that trend.
The Paul Nicholls trained Old Guard is the current ante-post second favourite and he comes into Saturday’s race on the back of two winning runs this season, including victory in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in mid November. Well beaten behind Peace & Co in the Triumph Hurdle, Old Guard has seeming improved a lot over the summer and will provide a stern test to Peace & Co.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins is set to send over Sempre Medici for Saturday’s race and on bare form he looks like he will struggle to compete with Peace & Co and Old Guard. With only one win from nine runs on the flat and two wins from six over hurdles, Sempre Medici would not appear to be one of Mullins’ stable stars but victory over Identity Thief at Fairyhouse in April would now appear to be a solid piece of form with Identity Thief having gone on to win the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth hurdle at Newcastle at the end of last month. If Sempre Medici has progressed over the summer as well as Identity Thief has, then a big run could well be on the cards.
Nicky Henderson also runs Hargam who has disappointed since easy successes in the Triumph Hurdle Trial and the Scottish Triumph Hurdle last season. Third place behind stable mate Peace & Co in the Triumph Hurdle was then followed by poor runs at Aintree and most recently at Cheltenham in October and it would be somewhat of a surprise if Hargam could find the necessary improvement to take Saturday’s race.
Saturday’s field is completed by the Phillip Hobbs trained Cheltenian, Melodic Rendezvous for Jeremy Scott, Purple Bay for John Ferguson, Sgt Reckless trained by Mick Channon and Red Riverman for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Peace & Co is the ante-post favourite at 2 (Evens) with Old Guard 4.5 (7/2). Semipro Medici is 6 (5/1) and Hargam 9 (8/1). The horse racing tip for Saturday’s International Hurdle is Peace & Co at 2 (Evens).
BY: Scott McGlynn