The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Palladium has earned a mark of 137 following back-to-back victories at Sandown and, as he doesn’t hold an entry in the Triumph Hurdle, it is highly likely that he will head down the handicap route at Cheltenham next month.
Nicky Henderson’s promising chestnut only narrowly failed to concede 7lbs to Maskada on his hurdling debut at Warwick in December. However, he found plenty in the finish in spite of travelling keenly for much of the contest and he would almost certainly have been called the winner with another stride or two.
Stuart Edmunds’ mare enhanced that form when placing fourth in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow over Christmas, when perhaps paying the price for chasing Dan Skelton’s hugely exciting speedster Allmankind, who is currently vying for favouratism in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle.
Palladium didn’t achieve much when getting off the mark at Sandown in January. However, he was 10 lengths too good for the solid yardstick Flic Ou Yoyou when returning to Esher 10 days ago, and the manner in which he bounded up the steep Sandown hill, in spite of again travelling keenly in the early stages, suggested that he could prove to be an above average hurdler.
Paul Nicholls’ charge was only 3 lengths behind Grade 2 runner-up Edwardstone and subsequent Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle scorer Fiddleroftheroof at Wincanton in November, and Palladium, who is another graduate of the Henrietta Knight school of jumping, leapt fluently throughout and clearly had plenty left in the tank after getting in tight to the last.
The Champs Elysees gelding was rated 73 on the flat and has already proven himself versatile in terms of ground. Nicky Henderson trained Divin Bere and Style De Grade to place second in this race off marks of 139 and 137 in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and the master of Seven Barrows has few equals when it comes to training juvenile hurdlers.
The pace of the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle should help him to settle and his slick jumping is undoubtedly a very strong asset in a contest such as this. We know that he doesn’t mind a stiff uphill finish and I am therefore happy to strike a wager at 20/1.
SELECTION: Palladium – 1pt each-way at 20/1 (William Hill)