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The Inside Track on the Champion Hurdle

By general consensus this year’s Champion Hurdle sits firmly in the vintage renewal category, and this despite the likely absence of Annie Power and Un De Sceaux, who in many other years would be vying for favouritism.

That pair are trained of course by Willie Mullins, and such is the talent at his disposal he can aim elsewhere with these two, and instead send out HURRICANE FLY in the day one highlight.

Mullins’ decision has polarised opinion, there are those that say shame on him for not running the best horses in the best race, and that he is trying to clear the path for a third success for the Fly, while others say he’s doing what is best for his charges, and indeed how confident he must be to rely just on Hurricane Fly to give him success in such an important race.

So where do I sit in this debate? Firmly in the Hurricane Fly camp.

19 Grade One wins, those two Champion Hurdle victories, trained by a master and ridden by a genius, and no, that’s not too strong a word to describe Ruby Walsh, even though Walsh blames himself for his mount’s third place in the Champion two years ago.

This season started sluggishly, with a less than sparkling verdict over stablemate Marito in the Morgiana, but what followed was further proof that the king was not ready to be dethroned. Our Conor and Jezki are Grade 1 winners both, and either would have started the season with Champion Hurdle pretensions, but twice they took on the Fly at Leopardstown, and twice they were swatted away.

That’s his compatriots taken care of then, so what about the British challengers? The New One and My Tent Or Yours lead the home defence, and both have strong claims for the hurdling crown, with little between them on their Christmas Hurdle running.

Of the rest, Melodic Rendezvous would surely need the principals not to fire to take a hand in the finish, but as far as I’m concerned Hurricane Fly sets the standard, and until his rivals prove otherwise, he’s the one to carry my money. And who knows, a hat-trick of wins might even silence his most vocal doubters, although I won’t hold my breath, they’ll probably just say he hasn’t beaten Annie Power and Un De Sceaux!

Selection: Hurricane Fly