Cheltenham Festival News
|Wednesday 4th December 2013|
The Five Champion Hurdle Contenders Set for Vintage Festival Showdown
The countdown to the 2014 Cheltenham Festival continues and race fans will be preparing for a vintage renewal of the Champion Hurdle at Prestbury Park. The race is always one of the most exciting spectacles at the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ but this season’s showpiece could easily be the race of the meeting and the bookmakers have five sensational horses at the head of their betting.
Hurricane Fly will be back to defend his crown in the Grade One highlight, but can he hold off the challenge of four up and coming stars of the National Hunt game?
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 2013 Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle hero powered to the head of the Champion Hurdle betting after a facile success on his seasonal reappearance at Kempton and the five-year-old looks set for a massive season.
The highly regarded Aintree Hurdle second demolished 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby on his return to action and it was a performance that cemented his position as the principle home challenger for next year’s race. He has the speed for two miles along with the stamina for further which will be a useful asset at HQ in March and he’ll be hugely popular between now and the Festival.
The hugely talented My Tent Or Yours was many punters’ ‘banker’ of the Festival in the 2013 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and if it hadn’t have been for a mighty performance from Champagne Fever, the bookmakers would still be paying out now.
He will return to Cheltenham in March with his trainer Nicky Henderson eyeing Champion Hurdle glory and there can be little doubt that the Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner has the ability to win the world famous race.
A strong traveller who has pulled hard in his races, My Tent Or Yours is an electric jumper with a huge engine and the only doubt surrounding the market principle will be his ability to handle the Cheltenham hill.
Our Conor is yet to flaunt his considerable talents over hurdles this season after a setback on the flat at Naas and he is being prepared for a mouthwatering clash with Hurricane Fly over the Christmas period. We’re likely to learn a lot more about the Irish raider there but if his fifteen length romp in the 2013 Triumph Hurdle is anything to go by, we could be about to witness something very special.
The confidence behind Dessie Hughes’ stable flagbearer at Cheltenham was infectious and the money coming from Ireland was enough proof that connections knew they had a Festival winners on their hands.
He will have to improve if he is going to be making it back-to-back victories at Prestbury Park but there is every chance the Irish raider has it in his locker.
Hurricane Fly’s record breaking victory in the Morgiana Hurdle earlier this season saw him become the first horse to win seventeen Grade Ones and he must be considered one of the finest National Hunt horses of all time.
Willie Mullins’ legendary hurdler has two Champion Hurdle victories to his name and the defending champion will be looking to win the race for a third time when he crosses the Irish Sea in March.
Despite being a dual winner of the race, the track and quicker ground at Cheltenham don’t bring out the best in the French recruit and his sheer class has pulled him through the race on two occasions. He will be ten by the time the race comes around again and his Morgiana Hurdle victory was one of his least impressive to date, but until he is turned over by one of his formidable rivals, Hurricane Fly remains at the top of the Champion Hurdle pile.
Multiple Grade One winner Jezki remains the outsider of the five market principles but he could also provide the most value and he is a huge contender for the Champion Hurdle.
His victory in the Hatton’s Grade Hurdle on his seasonal reappearance might not have been spectacular, but it was his seventh success in eight races and proof that Jezki is ready for a highly profitable season over hurdles.
The five-year-old might lack the ‘wow’ factor of the likes of My Tent Or Yours and Our Conor, but there is no denying that he is a horse of the highest quality and he is sure to carry plenty of shrewd bets to Cheltenham.
A slick jumper with the stamina for 2m4f, there is a chance he could fall short like he did when third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at HQ, but there is also more to come and it’d be no surprise to see Jezki stun the market leaders in March.
By Nick Wilby, managing editor at Cheltenhamfestival.net