The top quality racing action from Cheltenham’s two day International meeting culminates with the Grade 2 International Hurdle at 3.00pm on Saturday. We have a special win double bet for you here!
Recognised as an ideal prep race for March, this race always attracts a selection of the market principles for the Champion Hurdle. This year is no different as we have last year’s International winner Zarkandar looking to defend his crown from the immensely talented The New One. Despite looking likely to be a match, this race promises to be throughly entertaining as well as informative!
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Last year’s winner Zarkander (5/2 Stan James) reappears for Paul Nicholls after falling victim to the exciting mare Annie Power at Ascot where he lost by 5 lengths over 2m4f. Despite that loss he performed well on his first start of the season as he had to give away 11lbs. Likely to lead from the front he travels well and has plenty of stamina near the finish. He was successful in beating The New One in last season’s Aintree Hurdle where the addition of blinkers seemed to wake him up and he was able to control the race from the front. Again that race was over a 2m4f trip which seems to suit him well and questions have to be asked regarding this return to a shorter trip. Despite winning over this shorter trip he has failed twice in the Champion Hurdle against the best quality of opposition. Faced with another top quality individual I believe a lot will depend on the ability of Daryl Jacob to control the race and set the fractions he wants from the front.
The very short-priced favourite, and rightly so, is THE NEW ONE (1/2 bet365). Winner of the 2013 Neptune Novices Hurdle at the Festival this horse has always looked the sort with the right attributes to excel over an extended 2m. He made his seasonal reappearance at Kempton over 2m where he used his potent turn of foot to destroy the 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock on Ruby comfortably by 10 lengths. Unquestionably Rock on Ruby is not the force of old, nevertheless; the manner in which Nigel Twiston-Davies 5 year-old put the race to bed that day was mightily impressive. The New One currently sits at the head of the Champion Hurdle market and, providing all goes to plan, he should reinforce that position further after Saturday.
The others look like they are entered simply to make up the numbers. None of them have realistic chance of beating the two race principles. Court Minstrel (16/1 BetVictor) won a Grade 2 over 2m at Ayr in April and has shown up well on occasions at Cheltenham however he has to 18lbs to find to match the market leaders. Albert Hall (66/1 bet365) and Seabreeze D’Ho (25/1 Stan James) both come over from France but both have a preference for soft ground and are yet to encounter rivals with the quality of these. Jumps Road (40/1 Stan James) finds himself off bottom weight but is yet to win outside of Class 3 company, and finally Hawkhill (66/1 BetVictor) who represents Tim Vaughan needs to find 35lbs with the principles.
So a match on paper between THE NEW ONE and Zarkandar, with the clear preference for The New One. His long odds-on price accurately reflects his chances and he is expected to prove too good for Zarkander. Conditions will be ideal for the Champion Hurdle favourite as he is likely to get a lead from his market rival providing him with the perfect opportunity in which to utilise his push-button acceleration to sweep past him after the last. Arguably he has shown the best form of the Champion Hurdle contenders we have seen so far this year, The New One’s Festival price will undoubtedly shorten if he wins and could look very generous in hindsight if he wins well. His price may not be very attractive but fortunately we’ve managed to find an offer courtesy of Stan James that should appeal. Back The New One with Stan James to do the International/Champion Hurdle double at 5/1. Considering he’s the current 4/1 favourite for the Champion Hurdle, there is a nice amount of value on offer!
THE NEW ONE (Win) (1/2 bet365)
THE NEW ONE (Win Double International/Champion Hurdle) (5/1 Stan James)
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