Wednesday 19 April 2023

Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle

The Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle is a Grade 2 juvenile novices' hurdle run over 2 miles and 179 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day in late January. As such, the race is restricted to horses aged four years who, obviously, having started the season as three-year-olds, did so without a win over hurdles.

Festival Trials Day is the last fixture staged at Prestbury Park before the Cheltenham Festival in March and, run over the same course and distance, the Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle is considered a significant trial for the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, run on the final day of the Festival. Indeed, the race is also sponsored by JCB and hence known, for sponsorship purposes, as the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.

The Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle was inaugurated in 1985 and, although many winners have subsequently contested the Triumph Hurdle, just three horses – Katchit (2007), Peace And Co (2015) and Defi Du Seuil (2017) – have completed the double. Nicky Henderson, trainer of Peace And Co, also saddled Mister Banjo (2000), Rolling Star (2013), Protek Des Flos (2016) and Apple's Shakira (2018) to victory and is the leading handler in the history of the Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle, with five wins in all.

For the record, the 2023 winner of the Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle, Comfort Zone, is currently quoted as 10/1 fourth favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle on March 17. Joseph Patrick O'Brien's Churchill gelding ticks plenty of boxes, insofar as he has run four times over hurdles and won his last two starts in Grade 2 company, but his official rating, of 132, is lower than a typical Triumph Hurdle winner; he also has just over six lengths to find with the current ante-post favourite, Lossiemouth, on their running at Fairyhouse in December 2022.