Barry Geraghty admits it was a tough decision to overlook Bivouac in favour of Peace And Co in today's JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham.
Peace And Co created a huge impression on his British debut at Doncaster when ridden by Daryl Jacob, strolling away and jumping in the style of a horse who had run more than once over hurdles in France.
He is one of a handful of exciting juveniles owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, but while the likes of Top Notch, Bristol De Mai and Vercingetorix have been impressive in winning their races, none have generated the same level of excitement as Triumph Hurdle favourite Peace And Co.
Both Peace And Co and Bivouac are trained by Nicky Henderson so Geraghty had the choice, and while Bivouac has more experience, Geraghty was just as impressed as everyone else with Peace And Co on his debut.
“I had a sit on him at home a while ago and schooled him and he was very good,” Geraghty said. “He’s smart and quick at his hurdles. I thought he won really well at Doncaster a while back and he’s a very exciting juvenile.
“His work was very good before going to Doncaster and he won really impressively. I’ve won two already on Bivouac and I love him also, but Peace And Co looks very exciting.”
Dan Skelton saddles Zarib, which was rated in the mid-80s on the Flat for Mick Halford in Ireland and ran out an easy four-length winner on his hurdling debut at Newbury.
“Zarib won nicely at Newbury. The runner-up from Newbury has been beaten subsequently so it doesn’t give the form a great look, but Zarib travelled extremely well,” said Skelton. “I think his jumping has improved since [that run] and I am looking forward to getting him out again.”
Alan King’s Karezak won on his hurdling debut and while he has been beaten on his three subsequent starts, his seconds behind Hargam at Cheltenham and Bristol De Mai at Grade One level at Chepstow give his form a strong look.
“Karezak, who runs in the Triumph Hurdle Trial, bumped into a very good horse in Bristol De Mai at Chepstow, but it his was best run yet and he ran straight this time, which was encouraging,” the trainer said.
Adding further interest is the Paul Nicholls-trained Ibis Du Rheu, a half-brother to his smart stablemate Saphir Du Rheu. He was beaten narrowly on his racecourse debut by Henderson’s Top Notch when trained in France last term.
Andrew Balding’ Storm Force Ten, behind Bivouac twice already, completes the field.