Torpillo makes Cheltenham claims

Torpillo proved he could be a real handful at the Cheltenham Festival after winning the Unibet Juvenile Hurdle at Sandown.

The four-year-old was the heavy favourite for Saturday’s contest and he delivered in style.

The chestnut gelding proved too much for Fukuto, Paddy The Chef, Flashdanza, Tis Fantastic, Last Enchantment and Honorable.

He is being considered for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at this year’s Festival in March and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies was happy with the display.
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“We don’t know what he has beaten with the second-favourite going at the first, but that eased our problem,” the trainer told reporters.

“In that ground he is a bit like Bristol De Mai in that he has a high cruising speed that puts them to the sword. He has got lots of pace.

“That was very nice and he has done it well. Just walking in with Anthony (Bromley, owners’ racing manager) we were thinking about Grand National Trial day at Haydock (Victor Ludorum).

“It should be soft ground again, so that should be ideal.”

Meanwhile,  The reigning champion Buveur D’Air stars among 27 entries, up from 23 last year, for the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on day one of The Festival.

Buveur D’Air (Nicky Henderson, 11/8 favourite with Unibet) has captured the two most recent renewals of the two-mile hurdling championship, worth £450,000, and is trying to become the sixth three-time winner of the Unibet Champion Hurdle since the race’s inception in 1927.

The eight-year-old is out to emulate Hatton’s Grace (1949, 1950, 1951), Sir Ken (1952, 1953, 1954), Persian War (1968, 1969, 1970), See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987) and Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000).

Buveur D’Air, successful in 11 of his 13 starts over hurdles, looked as good as ever on his comeback this term when routing Irish hope Samcro (Gordon Elliott IRE, 25/1) by eight lengths in the G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on December 1.

However, he suffered a shock short-head defeat at the hands of stablemate Verdana Blue (Nicky Henderson, 10/1) in the G1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on December 26.

Nicky Henderson, with seven successes, has the best record of any trainer ever in the history of the Unibet Champion Hurdle. The six-strong team from Britain’s champion Jump trainer also features G2 Unibet International Hurdle victor Brain Power (16/1), Call Me Lord (14/1), Charli Parcs (100/1) and We Have A Dream (50/1), who was a leading juvenile last season.

Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for five of the 12 Irish-trained entries, with his quintet headed by last year’s neck runner-up Melon (10/1) and rising star Laurina (7/2), who was a facile 18-length winner of the G2 Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival™ presented by Magners in 2018.

The Mullins’ hand is completed by Galway Hurdle scorer Sharjah (8/1), who has since bolstered his CV with G1 triumphs at Punchestown and Leopardstown, Cilaos Emery (33/1) and Saldier (33/1).


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