The New One still Champion Hurdle fav despite Hurricane Fly heroics
The top three in the betting for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle remain unmoved after Hurricane Fly emulated Istabraq by winning the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown for the fourth year on the spin.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ The New One clung on to 3/1 favouritism ahead of Mullins’ stable star at 10/3, with Nicky Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours a shade longer at 7/2.
Neither The New One nor Hurricane Fly are likely to run again before the main event on Cheltenham Tuesday, based on their schedules in previous seasons, while My Tent Or Yours is expected to stroll around Wincanton in the Bathwick Tyres Kingswell Hurdle in a couple of weeks.
After a frantic finish at the County Dublin track, the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle picture has cleared up considerably and the eventual winner looks likelier and likelier to come from either the aforementioned trio or another exciting Irish challenger, Our Conor, who’s next in the betting at 6/1.
Super-mare Annie Power would surely come into contention if Mullins plumps for this assignment at the festival and she’s a worthy 6/1 poke, but the unbeaten six-year old looks primed for a crack at the World Hurdle, for which she’s the 3/1 second favourite behind Big Buck’s at 9/4.
The big drifter after the race was Jessica Harrington’s Jezki, who’s out to 12/1 having been 7/1 before coming fourth out of the four runners.
Although the small field was split by just three and a half lengths at the end, the fact that Our Conor comfortably reversed form from over Christmas with Harrington’s six-year-old at the same track does not bode well for Jezki’s chances.
Having been beaten into third in the Ryanair Hurdle, finishing five and three quarter lengths behind Hurricane Fly on that occasion, Our Conor improved impressively to close that gap to one and half in the Irish Champion Hurdle, prompting fervent race watchers to speculate whether Hardy Eustace’s trainer Dessie Hughes has another superstar hurdler on his hands.
Of the outsiders, Mullins’ Un De Sceaux is the only other potential runner under 33/1 in the market, but punters with an eye on the Edward O’Connell-owned bay gelding would be well advised to watch him go in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown before lumping on at 14/1.
Un De Sceaux may be unbeaten in six runs under rules, but he hasn’t beaten much to suggest he’s a genuine contender for such a prestigious event and is unlikely to be severely cut in the Champion Hurdle betting unless he wins without breaking sweat at Sandown.