The Champion Hurdle is in one sense straightforward and in another very complicated. Firstly, if the reigning champion Hurricane Fly turns up he will be very hard to beat. But given his current state of wellbeing and his predilection for missing engagements this season it may well be better to wait for the day and see if he actually turns up. Remember despite that striking performance at the Festival last year we have not seen him on a racecourse since Punchestown in May.
Some of those that finished behind the Hurricane are expected to take him on again if he does turn up to defend his crown, but it’s fairly hard to see any of them reversing the form and it will be the new swathe of hurdlers that many are looking to as the horses that have the potential to become the new Champion Hurdle winner if we are to have one. Those looking for horse racing betting tips should remember this.
Spirit Son would have been one of those new kids on the block who would have been among the choice of many but he met a setback after a searching gallop at home and the second for last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle may take some time to get back to full fitness. Zarkandar would be another who would fit in this category but he too has been absent so far with injury, but in his absence his form when winning the Triumph Hurdle has received several boosts through the exploits of the Triumph second, third and ninth Unaccompanied, Grandouet and Brampour.
Grandouet has made significant strides and was quite an impressive winner of the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, even though he was getting weight from Overturn and the rider on the third Brampour was unable to claim his allowance. Unaccompanied won the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown in the absence of Hurricane Fly, showing a good turn of foot to get the better of the 2011 Champion Hurdle fourth Thousand Stars and Oscars Well, the placed horses having been first and second in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. People placing Cheltenham 2012 bets should bear this in mind.
All of those from the 2011 Triumph Hurdle would have some sort of chance if they turned up on the big day itself.
Former winner Binocular appears to be short enough in the betting against horses of such potential but he has been there and done it and most recently won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton where he beat Rock On Ruby. Rock On Ruby was beaten in the Neptune Investment Hurdle last year at the Festival over the 2M 5F trip but this year has shown enough pace to win Gerry Fielden at Newbury in very taking fashion before being touched off narrowly by Binocular at Kempton around a track that was surely too much of a speed test for him.
If Hurricane Fly does make the Festival he would have every chance of making it back-to-back victories in the race but given his current fragile state of health it may be better to wait until the day. There is plenty of potential in the likely field, all of which have solid Cheltenham form and it promises to be a fascinating race on Tuesday March 14th.