Comfort Zone further highlighted Ireland’s dominance in the juvenile hurdle division when landing a telling blow in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
?? Comfort Zone vs Scriptwriter - some way to start Festival Trials Day— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 28, 2023
The Irish raider backs up his Finale Juvenile Hurdle victory with glory in the G2 Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle ?? @JJONeillJnr | @JosephOBrien2 | @CheltenhamRaces pic.twitter.com/eQ1L3xrxuu
Joseph O’Brien’s youngster made a successful raid to British shores when taking the Finale Juvenile Hurdle over Christmas and added a second successive Grade 2 prize when downing Milton Harris’ Scriptwriter – who headed into the Cheltenham feature as one of the home team’s best Triumph Hurdle hopes.
Scriptwriter looked to be travelling beautifully as Paddy Brennan charted a typically wide course round Prestbury Park, but the 2/1 favourite Comfort Zone was smuggled into contention by Jonjo O’Neill Jr and having jumped the last level pulled out more on the run to the line to prevail by half a length.
O’Neill said: “Scriptwriter is probably the best gauge-stick in England anyway, so I was happy with the performance.
“Scriptwriter was a non-runner on the day at Chepstow, so I suppose that performance was a bit better – you’d never have known. But I think the track probably suited him and maybe riding him like that was a bit more sensible.”
Asked about plans, he replied: “Leave it to the trainer and connections, they know more than me and what else they have in the races and stuff.
“I think he definitely deserves his chance in whatever race. I wouldn’t mind riding him, anyway. His hurdling was grand, a couple he got in a little bit short but I had him right down the inside and wanted to settle him, so I couldn’t be looking for loads of light.
“The ground is quite dead and he might be better on better ground, but he handles soft at Chepstow, so I’d say he is pretty versatile.”
Of Scriptwriter, Milton Harris: “It is just frustrating. Look, they are good horses. We just didn’t get the rub of the green.
“It wasn’t the ground. He just got to the front miles too soon. He is a horse who has come from Ballydoyle, where he has been a lead horse for Derby horses and he has been taught to lead horses, get headed, and that’s him, so you have got to hit it late and he has just travelled too well into the race.
“I was not impressed with finishing second. He is a good horse and we’ll be back and take on the winner.
“He just got there too soon. Paddy is spitting feathers as he got there too soon and is blaming himself. We should have hit the front in the last 50 yards and he would have won – he knows that.”
He added: “We don’t want to be poor losers, but it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest taking on the winner again.
“We will come back to fight another day and take the winner on in March.”