Its the Champion Hurdle from Day One of the Cheltenham Festival as we bring you the latest odds, as Hurricane Fly looks concrete in the betting markets.
Hurricane Fly will become the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain a Champion Hurdle if he lands the spoils on March 12th.
Since the unfortunate death of ante-post favourite Darlan, Hurricane Fly has rocketed to the top of the betting and can be punted at a best-priced 15/8 with Bet365.
Willie Mullins’ charge won the 2011 Champion Hurdle when beating Peddlers Cross by two lengths but couldn’t double-up 12 months on as he finished third behind Rock On Ruby.
In the aftermath of that defeat Mullins revealed he had never been happy with Hurricane Fly’s preparation.
He is back again this season, and Mullins is confident that he’s returned in the same form that roared him to Festival success in 2011.
However, that argument is falling on deaf ears in these quarters.
We believe Hurricane Fly is very opposable at the top of the market and that the notion that he was below-par last season is an easy excuse to make for his 2012 defeat, where he was beaten fair and square by Rock On Ruby.
Put simply, he just wasn’t good enough to land a significant blow.
Mullins seemed to be very happy with his horse going into the race, and the way he was backed off the boards, 5/4 into 4/5 just before the off, suggested that connections had no qualms about the horse’s state of fitness going into the race.
He ran the style of race that was also pretty expected and actually near identical to his defeat of Peddlers Cross 12 months previous.
Ruby Walsh travelled sweetly off the pace, and gradually eased Hurricane Fly in his usual authoritative style but due to the strong pace up front (the 2012 renewal was three seconds quicker than the 2011 renewal) he couldn’t use his speed to get to the front as Rock On Ruby quickened clear in strong fashion.
Hurricane Fly had to rely on his battling skills to get him through, and he didn’t find enough to power past the leaders and finished third.
The nine-year-old has, admittedly though, looked exceptional in his wins in Ireland this season thus far.
He has led his rivals a merry dance in the three Grade Ones he has won, but a horse of that talent should be beating those rivals with ease. He does it every season. If you put any horse at the top of the Champion Hurdle market in those races, then they would land the spoils in similarly impressive style.
Some have suggested Hurricane Fly has progressed over the last year, but it’s hard to believe that at the age of nine, he still has improvement in him.
Of course, the amount of talent he possesses means he is always going to pose a threat in a race of this calibre, but at 15/8, when you consider the ability of his rivals, he simply has to be taken on.
Firstly, he has to reverse last year’s form with Rock On Ruby, who is a general 6/1 shot after taking advantage of Darlan’s ill-fated fall at Doncaster.
He looks in great heart again and saves his best performances for the Festival, where the good ground is perfect for him.
However, he has been beaten already this season by Zarkandar and Grandouet in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, and we can see that form holding up when the Champion Hurdle comes around.
Both horses seemed to have progressed both mentality and physically since last season, and are real contenders for this year’s crown.
To put it bluntly, we would rather back both Zarkandar and Grandouet at 6/1 the pair, and get around 3/1 for our money, instead of going anywhere near the 15/8 about the overrated Hurricane Fly regaining his crown