Cheltenham countdown: Ivanovich Gorbatov looks well placed in Triumph Hurdle

The last couple of weeks will, doubtless, have encouraged connections and supporters of Triumph Hurdle favourite Ivanovich Gorbatov, whose sole outing over hurdles to date looks better with each passing juvenile event.

His starts on the Flat may have numbered just three but, from those limited opportunities, he reached a mark of 105.

On his hurdling debut, the son of Montjeu and Northern Gulch showed himself to be a natural jumper, with the potential to reach the very top, a notion strengthened by the subsequent performances of the vanquished.

Third-placed Lagostovegas was comprehensively outpointed at Leopardstown but the progressive filly routed the opposition in a similar event last Saturday afternoon at Naas.

Without having to be unduly pressured, she accounted for Newberry New, who had finished a similar distance behind her in the race won by Ivanovich Gorbatov.

Add to that the Fairyhouse victory of Tocororo, who had finished fourth at Leopardstown, and the strength of the form becomes obvious.

When you reach the realms of the also-rans the relevance of their subsequent efforts diminishes rapidly, but it was also somewhat encouraging to see ninth-placed Jazz Ranger score at Punchestown on his next start.

Testing conditions at Leopardstown may not have been ideal for Ivanovich Gorbatov but he travelled strongly, jumped well under pressure, and quickened up to beat a highly regarded, Let’s Dance, from the Willie Mullins stable.

Odds of 3-1 for a race which is more than eight weeks away may seem prohibitive, but it’s clear he’s the best raced juvenile on this side of the Irish Sea and, with nothing standing out amongst the British youngsters, it’s difficult to argue that price is not merited.

From a punting perspective, the Triumph Hurdle is no longer the puzzle it once was. Since the introduction of the Fred Winter, in 2005, only one winner (Countrywide Flame at 33-1, in 2012) has returned odds greater than 10-1 but, in the three runnings immediately prior to 2005, the winners’ starting prices were 20-1, 20-1 and 16-1.

The race may still be competitive but it’s far more predictable.

Whether or not Ivanovich Gorbatov is a bet, however, may require more than just a knowledge of the form of the juvenile hurdlers.

In 2008 his owner, JP McManus, had an exceptionally talented young hurdler and former Flat racer in the shape of Binocular.

Unbeaten in two runs over hurdles, the gelding looked an obvious candidate for top honours in the Triumph.

However, such an opportunity was shunned in favour of taking on his elders in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Backed down to a share of favouritism, he found only Captain Cee Bee, carrying the same colours, too good.

His subsequent victory over Triumph Hurdler Celestial Halo, at Aintree, suggests he would have proved best at Cheltenham, but connections’ regard of the gelding proved well founded as he won four Grade One hurdles, including the 2010 Champion Hurdle.

Another subsequent Champion Hurdler, Hors La Loi, was sent to the Supreme in preference for the Triumph, and proved up to the task, winning for Martin Pipe in 1999.

Ivanovich Gorbatov being such a tremendous yet unexposed talent on the Flat, it’s not inconceivable he is held in similar regard to those two and could be asked to take the same route.

Assuming that won’t be the case, however, he can give Aidan O’Brien and family a Cheltenham Festival success.


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