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Can Cheltenham Stars Follow Up Festival Glory in 2014?
19/03/13

Many National Hunt fans will be suffering from a Cheltenham Festival hangover this week as the reality dawns that they must wait another 12 months before the enjoyment of the four day meeting comes round again, but whilst some will be licking their punting wounds, plenty of ante-post enthusiast will already be looking at last week's races to find the early value ahead of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

Hurricane Fly
© Caroline Norris

Hurricane Fly

Hurricane Fly was undoubtedly the star of the opening day as he silenced his critics with a marvellous performance in the Champion Hurdle, but the Willie Mullins-trained Irish Raider will have some new opposition as he bids for a third victory in the 2014 renewal as some smart novice hurdlers showed enough to suggest they could be serious contenders to Hurricane Fly's crown.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’s The New One lowered the colours of the well-backed Pont Alexandre in the Neptune Novices Hurdle and he is available at 8/1 with Paddy Power to win the Tuesday highlight next season, but he was outdone by the magnificent Our Conor later in the week, who propelled to a facile success in the Triumph Hurdle to maintain his unblemished record.

Our Conor
© Caroline Norris

Our Conor
Dessie Hughes’s four-year-old stormed clear of a classy bunch of juveniles in Friday's curtain-raiser and Hughes has already labelled him as the biggest challenger to Hurricane Fly next year and the pair are currently vying for favouritism at 5/1 with Paddy Power and that Irish duo will be a brace of names to follow in the hurdling division next Autumn and Winter.

Nicky Henderson reached the marvellous milestone of 50 Cheltenham Festival winners when Bobs Worth bagged Gold Cup glory but the Seven Barrows maestro had kicked off the first couple of days with his two hotpots landing Grade One glory.

Sprinter Sacre was fully expected to rout his Queen Mother Champion Chase rivals and he duly obliged with a 17-length romp that saw him cement his place as the finest jumps horse in training, but next year he could be handed a new adversary in stablemate Simonsig.

Simonsig
© Caroline Norris

Simonsig
A battling winner of the Arkle on Tuesday, Simonsig was to have scoped dirty in the wake of his success, suggesting there should be even more to come next season, which could see him sent down the Champion Chase route and Paddy Power have priced up Sprinter Sacre at 4/7, whilst the Irish firm have Simonsig next in at 6/1 in what would be a mouth-watering clash.

It took AP McCoy until the final day to notch his first winner of the 2013 Festival but the champion jockey certainly shone on board Rebecca Curtis’s At Fishers Cross who was mightily-impressive when winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and as such, looks like a leading 2014 World Hurdle contender.

Big Buck’s was unable to try and win his fifth consecutive Stayers Hurdle title due to injury and the Stewart Family informed punters that his only run next year will be in the World Hurdle, if he can return from injury that is, so it’s not surprising that Paddy Power are dangling an ante-post carrot at 7/2 about a fifth success for the Paul Nicholls star in 2014 but many will feel that At Fishers Cross can progress again and the 6/1 could well look be a cracking ante-post bet come next March about a horse that is still on the upgrade.

Champagne Fever
© Caroline Norris

Champagne Fever

Elsewhere, Champagne Fever beat the well backed My Tent Or Yours in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last Tuesday and with a chasing career now on the card, the Willie Mullins runner is the current favourite for next year's Arkle and as a previous point to point winner in Ireland, the six year old is sure to be one to keep an eye on over bigger obstacles whilst My Tent Or Yours is a 10/1 shot to win the 2014 Champion Hurdle.

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