Britain & Ireland Preview: Iceo to make Pied Piper the follower Jan. 29
The Cheltenham Festival lead-ups hot up with five graded jumps races at Cheltenham itself Jan. 29. Three other Grade 2 races are being held at Doncaster, though they look to have less relevance to the Grade 1 races at the Festival.
Much interest at Cheltenham will be taken in the performances of two horses trained by Nicky Henderson and owned by J.P. McManus – #2 Chantry House in the 3 3/16-mile Cotswold Chase (G2) (Race 5), and #1 Champ in the three-mile Cleeve Hurdle (G2) (Race 6).
Champ in particular is an interesting story, having reverted back to hurdling after failing last year in the Gold Cup (G1), which he is still a possible starter. But he has only four opponents and there won’t be huge value.
JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (G2) - Race 2 (7:45 a.m. ET)
A trickier proposition, but with potentially greater rewards, comes in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (G2) over 2 1/8 miles – a prep race for the Triumph Hurdle (G1) for four-year-old hurdlers at the Festival. Eight runners head to the post, including two highly-regarded prospects, English-trained #1 Iceo and a horse formerly owned by Queen Elizabeth II, the now Irish-trained #7 Pied Piper.
Pied Piper showed plenty of bravery to outduel the highly-fancied Triumph Hurdle prospect Vauban on his jumping debut at Punchestown Dec. 31, coming out on top by half a length. In addition, he is receiving three pounds from Iceo, and Irish horses have generally had the upper hand over English jumpers in the last two years.
However, Iceo could not have been more impressive at his last start. He began his career in France, winning at Dieppe Aug. 21, before joining the stable of leading English trainer Paul Nicholls. He was well backed at Kempton Dec. 27 and won by 17 lengths without being asked for his best.
If it gets into a scrap then Pied Piper could be a good chance, but the ease of Iceo’s Kempton victory makes him the one to back.
Cheltenham, Jan. 29, Race 2, JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle
- $20 win: #1 Iceo
BONUS PLAY – IRELAND
Fairyhouse, Jan. 29, Race 4, Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle
- $20 win/$30 show: #3 Allegorie de Vassy: Highly impressive on her debut for leading trainer Willie Mullins on New Year’s Day at Fairyhouse and a great chance to repeat here.