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|'Choc' pondering Triumph Hurdle conundrum|
Robert 'Chocolate' Thornton, stable jockey to the powerful Alan King yard, is in the enviable position of having to decide between two leading candidates for the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 16 and is in no rush to tip the wink to either Grumeti or Balder Succes, writes Elliot Slater.
Both horses have shown a tremendous amount of ability in their first season over hurdles, Grumeti have won three of his four starts over timber, (he fell when clear at the second from home at Newbury on his second start), and Balder Succes being unbeaten in all three outings since joining King's string at Barbury Castle from France, where he won on his only start at Auteuil in October before being bought privately by Masterson Holdings Limited to race in Britain. Those following the 2012 Cheltenham betting odds should keep an eye on him.
Grumeti is currently the 5/1 ante-post favourite having won in Grade 2 company on each of his last two outings, passing the post a short-head behind Pearl Swan at Cheltenham before being awarded the race in the stewards room having been hampered on the run-in, then proving a length-and-a-half- too good for Dodging Bullets in the Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton last month.
Balder Succes hacked up on heavy ground at Plumpton on his British bow before slamming Brilliant Barca by 11-lengths at Ascot on better ground in mid-January. He completed the hattrick in style when easily accounting for the talented Captain Sunshine back at the Berkshire venue last month, and whilst not yet having won at the same level as his stable companion looks a horse of considerable potential. Bookmakers currently rate him a top priced 10/1 shot for the two-mile juvenile hurdling crown.
Thornton is taking his time before making his choice, whilst waiting in the wings is his friend and fellow King stable rider Wayne Hutchinson, who will ride whichever horse 'Choc' chooses to discard.