Our Conor no forlorn hope to swat The Fly
Our Conor has twice been beaten by Hurricane Fly, but there are reasons to believe that he could gain his revenge in the Champion Hurdle and win one of the strongest looking renewals for many a year.
Dessie Hughes’ gelding ran out one of the most impressive winners in the history of the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago, and he has been brought along steadily this season to ensure that he is at his absolute peak on the day that matters most.
The five-year-old looked big and well when finishing third to Hurricane Fly in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at Leoparstown in December, where he was totally unsuited by the slow early pace and pulled far too hard before being beaten 5 3/4 lengths.
However, he was not knocked about and got much close to that rival when they met last time out in the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle at the same venue.
The son of Jeremy looked to be travelling better than the eventual winner approaching the last that day, but was then unable to find any extra on the run-in to be beaten 1 1/2 lengths.
It was an effort which suggested that his trainer had left a bit to work on ahead of his Cheltenham target, and he significantly got 4 1/2 lengths closer to The Fly than on their previous meeting.
If he improves the same amount again then his chances in the Champion Hurdle are obvious, and a major plus is that he is likely to get a strong pace in that contest for the first time since his success in the Triumph.
He showed that day that and end-to-end gallop in a big field suited him down to the ground, and in the circumstances his effort in a muddling run Irish Champion Hurdle last time out is worthy of more praise than it has received.
There is no doubt that his handler will have him tuned to the minute for the feature race on Tuesday, March 11th, and he certainly knows what is required to win the contest having saddled Hardy Eustace to land back-to-back victories in 2004/5.
The negatives are that five-year-olds don’t have a great record in the race with just two wins in the last 20 years, and only Katchit (2008) has won the race as the reigning Triumph hurdler since Persian War completed the double in 1968.
However, those that witnessed his romp 12 months ago will believe that he has the right credentials to turn that stat on it’s head.
His supporters will certainly hold out high hopes of him finishing in front of Hurricane Fly given his progressive profile, and Coral go 9/2 about him winning the Champion Hurdle.