Baby Mix, the ante-post favourite for the four-year-old’s championship, the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 16, will have his next big test before the race when competing at the Prestbury track in the Grade 2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at the end of January, writes Elliot Slater.
The Tom George-trained juvenile hurdler burst onto the British scene when making his debut for the yard at Cheltenham in December, sensationally defeating the 2/7 favourite Hinterland without a semblance of a fluke to emerge as the leading candidate for the coveted two-mile contest that opens the final day of the four-day Cheltenham Festival.
Although he had been working very well on the home gallops for George since joining his team just three weeks earlier, the winner in the French provinces proved very much a surprise package in showing a tremendous attitude in travelling sweetly throughout under Paddy Brennan then leading on the bridle approaching the last and subsequently storming away up the hill to leave the Paul Nicholls-trained Hinterland’s bubble well and truly burst. Even those looking at the latest online Cheltenham Gold Cup betting will have been astonished.
Originally expected to take his chance in the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle at Chepstow’s Christmas meeting, connections deemed the very testing underfoot conditions unsuitable for their charge, preferring to bide their time for another suitable target on a better surface. The January 28 contest certainly fits the bill with the ground at Cheltenham rarely very deep even in mid-winter.
George is convinced that Baby Mix is strengthening up all the time and reports him to have continued to school well. He has no qualms about him having just two runs in Britain before tackling the Triumph, noting that the horse was a hardened campaigner on the level in his native France and won’t want for tactical awareness. Bookmakers rate the gelded son of Al Namix a top priced 8/1 favourite for the season’s feature juvenile hurdle.