Cheltenham Festival News
|Friday 24th January 2014|
Irish Champion Hurdle Could Provide Vital Clues In Untangling the Cheltenham Equivalent
The Cheltenham Festival may only be six weeks away but there is still time for clues to be obtained as trainers complete their final preparations ahead of the showpiece in March and this weekend should offer plenty of insight with Trials Day taking place at Cheltenham on Saturday before Leopardstown plays host to the Irish versions of the Arkle and Champion Hurdle on Sunday.
Heavy weights of the two mile hurdling division, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Our Conor have all been declared to run in the Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle, the outcome of which could go a long way in untangling the outcome of the Cheltenham equivalent on the 11th March, which looks to be the most competitive renewals of the race in years with any of the top six in the betting currently boasting solid claims for winning the feature race on the opening day and three of those will do battle at Leopardstown.
All eyes will be on Hurricane Fly at the Dublin track as the ten-year-old is the 4/7 favoruite with Bet365 to win the race for a fourth consecutive year, whilst looking for what would be a 19th Grade One career win at the same ahead of his bid to win a third Champion Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins stable star has become something of a legend over the past few years with his only defeat of recent times coming in 2012 in the Champion Hurdle. Other than that blip, the son of Montjeu has swept all before over two miles. He was highly impressive over Christmas as he won the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown with both Jezki and Our Conor dispatched with relative ease.
Prior to that race, there had been doubts about the form of Hurricane Fly but he put those worries to bed against the two other main Champion Hurdle contenders from Ireland. Jezki was slightly hampered in that race and may be worth a second chance to reverse the two and a half length deficit; while Our Conor will need to find marked improvement to challenge Hurricane Fly on the basis of that run.
Our Conor backers have their fingers crossed that the Dessie Hughes trained runner can replicate his Triumph Hurdle winning Festival form of last season in the Champion Hurdle, hoping that the Cheltenham Hill brings out the best in the five-year-old, who, given his age, should have plenty of improvement within him.
Hurricane Fly emerged from that win over Christmas as the 10/3 favoruite in ante-post Champion Hurdle market, while Jezki and Our Conor are locked together on 8/1 with improvement need in Ireland on Sunday if either is to move up the betting.
It was My Tent Or Yours who was a narrow winner at Kempton that day with The New One making a slight jumping mistake at the last to check his progress but there was clearly very little to split the two British hopefuls.
My Tent Or Yours is likely to have another prep race between now and the Festival which may tell us more, with Nicky Henderson and JP McManus still hoping they have another Champion Hurdle winner on their hands following Binocular's success in 2010. The New One does have the advantage of a Festival win in the form book with a Neptune victory to his credit from 12 months ago, proving he has the stamina to stay the trip at what is sure to be breakneck speed.
Punters looking for some value outside of the market leaders may be struggling a little bit but one that may make some appeal is Un De Sceaux. He is another from the Willie Mullins yard and at this stage he still could be anything. The six-year-old has won all six of his starts to date but hasn’t beaten too much in the process with connections still to decide if they want him to run against stable-mate Hurricane Fly but can be backed at 14/1 with Boylesports.Hurricane Fly proved over Christmas that he remains the horse to beat and a victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle will surely see him start as the favourite by the time the tapes go up on the first day of the Festival, whilst any upset from Jezki or Our Conor would see them emerge as a front runner. My Tent Or Yours looks to have the speed to run a massive race while The New One perhaps has a little bit more gas in the tank if push comes to shove in what is a complex race on paper. However, at this stage, it is Hurricane Fly who sets the standard and remains firmly on course to add a third Champion Hurdle crown in four years to his already bulging resume.