Which were the top three juvenile hurdlers in 2020/21?
Juvenile hurdlers are those that are three years of age at the start of the National Hunt season but, obviously, turn four years of age on New Year’s Day. Thus, juvenile hurdle races are restricted to three-year-olds before January 1 and, thereafter, to four-year-olds. According to Timeform, the top three juvenile hurdlers in 2020/21 were Monmiral (151p), Quilixios (146) and, jointly, Jeff Kidder (143) amd Zanahiyr (143).
Owned, in partnership, by Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and John and Lisa Hales and trained by Paul Nicholls, Monmiral was unbeaten in four starts in 2020/21. Already a winner over hurdles at Auteuil in March, 2020 for previous trainer Francois Nicolle, the Saint des Saints gelding started favourite on all four starts and odds-on on twice. However, he put up his best performance when beating Adagio by 7½ lengths in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in April.
Unlike Monmiral, Quilixios ran at the Cheltenham Festival, where he readily beat Adagio by 3¼ lengths in the Trumph Hurdle to maintain his hitherto unbeaten record. Another former Francois Nicolle inmate, he has previously won his first three starts for new trainer Henry de Bromhead, including the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, without being seriously challenged. However, he ended the season on a low note when only seventh of eight finishers, beaten 30 lengths, behind Jeff Kidder in the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown.
Jeff Kidder, trained by Noel Meade, rose to prominence when winning the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival at odds of 80/1. However, he proved that performance was no fluke by comprehensively outpointing the hitherto unbeaten Teahuppo in a Grade 2 event at Fairyhouse and narrowly beating Zanahiyr in the aforementioned Champion Four Year Old Hurdle.
A winner of his first three starts for Gordon Elliott, Zanahiyr was transferred to Denise Foster when Elliott began his well-publicised ban a week before the start of the Cheltenham Festival. Nevertheless, the son of Nathaniel was sent off 11/8 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle, but was outpaced approaching the final flight and, although rallying on the run-in, eventually finished fourth, beaten 4¾ lengths, behind Quilixios. He went down fighting, once again, when failing by three-quarters of a length to overhaul Jeff Kidder at Punchestown on his final start.