Champion Hurdle odds
The Champion Hurdle is the fastest and most exhilarating race at the Cheltenham Festival and as a result it often the most hotly-contested betting market around.
Indeed, the reigning champion Hurricane Fly has already been usurped at the head of the Champion Hurdle odds.
This is fairly remarkable, considering that Willie Mullins’ ace holds the world record for most Grade One wins with an astounding 17 victories at the top level.
While some will point to the lack of strength in some of those races, few could argue that his two Champion Hurdle wins were not well deserved.
Hurricane Fly won the 2013 Champion Hurdle
In 2011 he showed plenty of determination to fend off Peddlers Cross, while last season he also had to work hard to see off the 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.
Mullins’ star will be back to defend his crown in March, and will bid to emulate five horses who have won the prestigious contest three times since World War II.
The most recent of those was Istabraq, who won three successive renewals from 1998 to 2000.
He was denied an ideal opportunity to record a fourth win when the 2001 renewal was called off because of the foot-and-mouth disease; he had been the odds-on favourite.
AP McCoy has won three renewals of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham
Istabraq was owned by JP McManus, who also won the race with Binocular in 2010, whilst his jockey AP McCoy has two other Champion Hurdle wins to his name courtesy of Make A Stand (1997) and Brave Inca (2006).
A quick look at the Champion Hurdle betting shows that McCoy will have another good chance in March, as Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours features very highly.
Similarly, the Triumph Hurdle winner Our Conor and the Neptune Investments Novices’ Hurdle winner The New One are two more of the younger brigade hoping to upset Hurricane Fly’s bid.
Katchit was the last five-year-old winner of the Champion Hurdle
Our Conor will be five in March and Dessie Hughes’s star will be bidding to become just the second five-year-old to win the race since 1985; the other was Alan King’s Katchit in 2008.
Both horses, along with the Irish-trained Jezki, appear to give the second-season hurdlers a very strong hand in the two mile one furlong contest.
They have to negotiate eight hurdles on the New Course, often at a tremendous pace, and with each horse often primed to perfection for this prestigious race, it is usually the most electric contest of the week.