Cheltenham Festival 2015: Champion Hurdle preview (15:20)
Reigning champ Jezki holds outstanding claims of winning a cracking renewal of the Champion Hurdle (15.20) in the hands of 19-times champion jockey AP McCoy.
Trained by Jessica Harrington, this gelding stayed on strongly to beat My Tent Or Yours 12 months ago and went on to follow-up at Punchestown when easily getting the better of Hurricane Fly.
The seven-year-old has finished runner-up twice to the The Fly this season, and looked held when blundering at the last and finishing third behind Willie Mullins’ star last time out in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
However, Jezki is a spring horse and has had his whole campaign geared around defending his crown.
Harrington is sure to have him absolutely spot-on for today’s assignment, and it is a major plus that he has actually been there, done it, and got the t-shirt at the highest level.
Horses that have previously performed well in the Champion Hurdle have gone on to do so again, and the fact McCoy rates Jezki his best chance of getting a winner during the four-day meeting also speaks volumes.
The obvious dangers are the unbeaten Faugheen and last year’s third The New One.
Faugheen represents the powerful Willie Mullins stable and is favourite to land the spoils after running out the facile winner of the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
That was the gelding’s seventh straight win over the obstacles, and his CV includes an easy success in the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at this meeting 12 months ago.
The seven-year-old oozes class, stays well and has a high cruising speed and potent turn of foot.
He is the up-and-coming star but is now taking on the cream of battle-hardened hurdlers and what he has actually beat in his career so far is open to question.
The New One was considered by many to be an unlucky loser when finishing a staying on third to Jezki last year after getting badly hampered by the fall of the ill-fated Our Conor, and may well prove the biggest danger to Jezki.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained seven-year-old is unbeaten in five starts since and has looked better than ever this season.
The son of King’s Theatre was particularly impressive when landing the International Hurdle at this track and although he struggled to land the odds in his final prep run at Haydock the ground was desperate and hindered his jumping.
In hindsight the latter was not a bad a performance as it first appeared, and The New One is far better than that and remains the home team’s big hope in this big race on day one of the Festival.