Ante-Post Preview of the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Festival 2014 Tips – Horse racing enthusiasts have been treated to a fantastic festive period of racing with Cheltenham Festival clues aplenty. The Champion Hurdle market in particular is shaping up nicely with the leading contenders taking one another on in a number of fascinating trials both here and across the Irish sea. With the Festival only 66 days away, now is the perfect time to evaluate what we have seen so far and who we fancy at this stage in the build up.
The New One (3/1 Betfred) was the first to have his Champion Hurdle credentials put to the test when he was put up against Zarkander (33/1 Stan James) in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in the middle of December. Run on good ground, this race proved relatively uncompetitive with The New One powering up the hill to beat Zarkander by 6 lengths. Despite not jumping fluently over a few obstacles, he was mightily impressive when he was pressed jumping the last. Clearly Zarkander isn’t a true Champion Hurdle candidate but, in terms of prep runs, the way in which The New One reacted to his rival’s challenge and fought to the line would have pleased connections no end.
The next challenge facing The New One was My Tent Or Yours (7/2 BetVictor) at Kempton on Boxing Day in the Christmas Hurdle. This became quite a tactical race with The New One finding himself at the front of proceedings a long way from the finish. This led to a cracking race to the line with My Tent Or Yours showing great battling qualities to get the best of his market rival in a tight finish. Both horses performed commendably in a race that wouldn't really have suited either. My Tent Or Yours pulled early on as the pace was tame and The New One couldn’t use his potent turn of foot to best effect. The race didn’t conclusively determine which of the pair is superior and depending on how the Champion Hurdle is run will have a massive effect on which of the two will prevail.
Over in Ireland we had a fantastic clash between the reigning champion HURRICANE FLY (10/3 Betfred), last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner Our Conor (9/1 BetVictor), and last year’s Supreme Novice third Jezki (8/1 Coral). This was by far the most important trial to date and its result had a drastic affect on the markets. Hurricane Fly picked up yet another Grade 1 victory as he swept past his rivals and stormed past the last. This effort generally halved his odds with the bookmakers and saw him climb to a share of the market lead with both My Tent Or Yours and The New One.
Another Irish raider who could make an appearance in the Champion Hurdle is the impressive mare Annie Power (14/1 Stan James). Unbeaten in her career to date, she has so far conclusively beaten Zarkander over 2m4f both at Ascot and at Cheltenham on varying types of ground. She has the potential to continue improving and many believe she would be ideally suited to a strongly run 2m romp around Cheltenham. Despite her impressive victories to date, in my mind she has the perfect attributes to tackle the 3m test of the World Hurdle. Willie Mullins has a vast array of riches yet he lacks a strong World Hurdle contender. This mare could well be that missing piece as she travels comfortably and looks to be doing her best work near the finish line.
Mid-November I tipped HURRICANE FLY to win the Champion Hurdle at 11/2. From what I have seen so far, it is still difficult to ignore the continued domination of the same horse. Despite many questioning his Champion Hurdle credentials; due to his age, form of his seasonal reappearance etc, he continues to win Grade 1 events and continues to beat good quality rivals. Willie Mullins has gone on record numerous times stating that there is still plenty of work to be done with this horse and, if Hurricane Fly improves as his trainer expects him to do so, then it will take a monumental effort from one of his rivals to beat him. The fact he is the current joint favourite with The New One and My Tent Or Yours at around 3/1 seems bizarre to me. I expected him to be closer to 9/4 after his success in Ireland and considering the bullish nature of his trainer. His rivals may well have plenty of potential but this horse has proven his class over the last 5 years and I have every faith that he will continue to do so in March!
HURRICANE FLY (WIN) (10/3 Betfred)
Simply follow these simple steps –
1. click on the above link
2. create an account and enter your details
3. your initial bet will be matched up to £25