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Champion Hurdle hope Our Conor’s comeback delayed by minor setback

Dessie Hughes’ youngster was considered the banker of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival for many and he didn’t disappoint, winning the Triumph Hurdle at a canter and firmly implanting himself at the head of the Champion Hurdle betting for this season.

Four horses have won both races – with the admirable Katchit the most recent in 2006/7 – and the Barry Connell-owned Our Conor has been tipped to follow in their footsteps by many of the top judges in the country.

However his comeback has been delayed due to minor injuries sustained in a run on the flat at Naas in October.

Hughes explained: “He won’t make the Morgiana. In his race the last day he got in the wars and came out of it with cuts and bruises.”

He is 5/1 to win the Champion Hurdle in March, with only defending champion Hurricane Fly and fellow young pretender The New One, ahead of him in the betting.

The latter impressed when storming clear of Rock On Ruby on his seasonal return, however fans of Our Conor will have to wait to see their hope in action this season.

Our Conor to win the 2014 Champion Hurdle at 5/1

Judging from the words of his owner Connell, his two main targets this season are the Irish Champion Hurdle in January and the English version nearly two months later.

Hurricane Fly has won the last three renewals of the Leopardstown grade one and he is likely to be a tough nut to crack, however it’s worth noting that his opposition in previous years have been two and a half mile horses, who he has readily outpaced.

Our Conor’s main asset when winning at Cheltenham was his slick jumping and a real turn of foot which saw him easily draw away from his rivals at the turn for home.

If he can reproduce that sort of performance then the year older Hurricane Fly might just find himself in a real dogfight for once.

Trainer Hughes knows exactly what it takes to train a horse to win both races, having saddled the terrific Hardy Eustace to victory in Ireland in 2007, two years after the second of his two Champion Hurdle wins at Cheltenham.

Hurricane Fly to win the 2014 Champion Hurdle at 4/1

Our Conor looks a much different horse but so far he has looked very straight-forward, unlike his sire Jeremy.

Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Jeremy was not quite top-class over a mile but proved himself as a very good seven furlong performer. However he gained (relative) infamy for trying to bite rival Pelham Crescent on his debut at Newmarket.

Thankfully, he doesn’t appear to have passed that trait on to his offspring and, despite this temporary delay, Our Conor’s return to hurdling will be one of the most hotly-anticipated races of the season so far.