2014 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – TV BET’S GUIDE TO THE STAN JAMES CHAMPION HURDLE
It’s now just a matter of days before the curtain is raised on the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, and TV Bet turns its attention to the big race on the first day of the meeting, the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
Twelve months ago Hurricane Fly regained his crown in this race with a power-packed display, and Willie Mullins’ stable star will be bidding to join an elite group of multiple Champion Hurdle winners on Tuesday.
Looking at the Cheltenham betting for this 2m content, the Irish raider is currently vying for favouritism with young pretender The New One, while Our Conor, who also hails from the Emerald Isle, and the Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours are the next two in the market.
TV Bet analyses the key contenders for the Grade 1 event:
Best Champion Hurdle odds: 11/4 Bet 365
Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq are the only four horses in history to win the Champion Hurdle three times – can Hurricane Fly add his name to that illustrious list?
The son of Montjeu, winner of a record-breaking 19 Grade 1 races over hurdles, is clearly the one to beat. However, no horse aged 10 has won this race since Sea Pigeon in 1980, and Hurricane Fly arguably faces the stiffest test of his career so far on Tuesday.
For whatever reason, he failed to produce his trademark turn of foot when third behind Rock On Ruby in the 2012 renewal of this race. However, he exacted revenge on that rival in no uncertain terms 12 months ago, staying on strongly up the hill to beat Harry Fry’s by two and-a-half lengths.
This time round, though, he’s up against several rising stars. The New One and My Tent Or Yours are both big threats, while Our Conor was only beaten a length and-a-half by Hurricane Fly in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time and, with scope for further improvement, he is also a live danger.
THE NEW ONE
Best Champion Hurdle odds: 11/4 William Hill
Nigel Twiston-Davies went agonisingly close to breaking his Champion Hurdle duck when Khyber Kim found only Binocular too good in the 2010 renewal, and in The New One has an outstanding chance of going one better this year.
The King’s Theatre gelding is well suited to the unique undulations of Cheltenham; he’s won three of this four starts over hurdles at Prestbury Park, including a deeply impressive performance in the International Hurdle in December.
He was outpointed by My Tent Or Yours in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time, but he was always likely to prove vulnerable over 2m on that sharp track, so he deserves plenty of credit for running Nicky Henderson’s horse, who possesses superior tactical speed, to half-a-length there.
Back at Cheltenham, The New One will be a different proposition. This race is invariably run at a break-neck pace, which will bring his proven stamina into play, and it would be no surprise to see the six-year-old add his name to the Champion Hurdle roll of honour on Tuesday.
MY TENT OR YOURS
Best Champion Hurdle odds: 9/2 Paddy Power
When Nicky Henderson’ Binocular landed the 2010 Champion Hurdle, his participation was in doubt in the days leading up to the race due to an injury scare. My Tent Or Yours picked up a minor injury on Monday, but is expected to take his chance. Paradoxically, is this a good omen?
It certainly wouldn’t be any surprise if lightning were to strike twice in that respect. The Desert Prince gelding is undeniably a hugely talented hurdler and he knuckled down really well when getting the better of The New One in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
My Tent Or Yours subsequently warmed up for his Champion Hurdle assignment with a smooth success in a jumpers’ bumper on Polytrack at Kempton, and if the ground continues to dry out ahead of Festival that will play to his strengths, as he possesses excellent tactical speed.
However, it’s hard to erase the memory of when he was out-battled up the hill by Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices’ 12 months ago. Tony McCoy, assuming he partners My Tent Or Yours ahead of Jezki, will presumably aim to deliver the seven-year-old as late as possible this time, but the suspicion remains that he will be vulnerable to stronger stayers.
Best Champion Hurdle odds: 4/1 Ladbrokes
Dessie Hughes’ charge produced a devastating display when demolishing his rivals in the Triumph Hurdle at last season’s Festival. He was panther-slick over the hurdles and drew clear from the second-last to win in the manner of a future champion.
Admittedly, he has already been beaten twice by Hurricane Fly this season, but he got much closer to the reigning champion horse in the Irish equivalent of this race at Leopardstown last time and, at the tender age of five, it’s likely that there is better still to come from Our Conor.
The son of Jeremy probably wouldn’t want the ground to dry out appreciably at Prestbury Park; he’s got a round action and his four victories over hurdles have been gained on going described as good to soft or easier.
If there is give underfoot at Cheltenham on Tuesday, Our Conor will have a serious chance. He shapes as though he would stay father than 2m, so the prospect of a strongly-run race on this testing track will be right up his street. Underestimate him at your peril.
Best Champion Hurdle odds: 9/1 Bet Victor
A winner of seven of his 10 starts over hurdles, Jezki made a bright start to the season, winning his first two starts, including the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse in December.
The six-year-old has been put in his place by Hurricane Fly at Leopardstown the last twice but, like Our Conor, Jessica Harrington’s hurdler could also be seen to better effect granted a strong end-to-end gallop at Cheltenham on Tuesday.
Jezki was beaten just under three lengths when third behind Champagne Fever and My Tent Or Yours in the Supreme Novices’ at this meeting 12 months ago, and may well have finished even closer had he not hit the final flight.
In contrast to some of his rivals, the Milan gelding won’t be inconvenienced if the ground dries out significantly ahead of the first day of the Festival, and his proven stamina (he has winning form at 2½m) will be an asset. He’s rates a strong each-way contender.
Hurricane Fly looks sure to make a bold bid to gain a third victory in this prestigious race, but he faces a number of up-and-coming young guns this time round and could prove vulnerable.
The JP McManus-owned duo My Tent Or Yours and Jezki should both make their presence felt, but it could be that The New One and Our Conor will fight out the finish.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has some engine and is not passed over lightly, but it’s hard to forget how impressive Our Conor was in last year’s Triumph Hurdle and, if Dessie Hughes once again has the five-year-old at his peak for the Festival, he could emerge victorious.
Champion Hurdle Betting Advice: Our Conor – 4/1 (Ladbrokes)
Remember to stay tuned to TV Bet for the latest news, best Cheltenham odds and expert 2014 Cheltenham Festival betting advice in the run-up to the big meeting which commences on Tuesday 11th March.