Hurricane Fly to struggle according to Champion Hurdle trends
The Champion Hurdle is well-named – 18 of the last 24 winners had won a race at the Cheltenham Festival before – and the two mile feature often brings together the best of the different generations of hurdlers.
Willie Mullins’ current champ Hurricane Fly became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in the 1970’s to regain the crown, having won the race in 2011 before a thrilling victory as the 13/8 favourite two years later.
If returning to defend his title in 2014, he will have to defy the statistic that no 10-year-old has won the race since Sea Pigeon triumphed as an 11-year-old in 1981, indeed only four horses older than eight have won since 1951.
Set the trend
The best trials over the years have been the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown; Hurricane Fly won the last-named before his victory in March.
However a word of warning: just one of the last 21 Christmas Hurdle winners has gone on to triumph in the Champion Hurdle (Kribensis 1989/90).
Hurricane Fly is one of a whole host of Irish-trained horses who have landed the prize, with nine of the last 15 winners being trained across the Irish Sea and the Irish challenge looks strong once again.
As well as Willie Mullins’ ace, Our Conor represents a young generation of Irish hurdlers who are set to make their stamp on the Festival once again.
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner represents Dessie Hughes who won the Champion Hurdle in 2004 and 2005 with Hardy Eustace, however, much like the older horses, five-year-olds have not won the race regularly.
Katchit in 2008 was the last to do so, but before him you have to go back to 1985 and Nicky Henderson’s first Cheltenham winner See You Then for the last successful five-year-old.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ The New One is a year older and he is a former Festival winner, having stormed up the hill at odds of 7/2 in last season’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
Locally trained, the popular son of King’s Theatre crushed 2012 Rock On Ruby on his seasonal return to action at Kempton and has impressed many a shrewd judge. Other Neptune Novices’ winners to follow up in the Champion Hurdle include Istabraq and Hardy Eustace.
Another home challenger is My Tent Or Yours who represents Nicky Henderson, the trainer who, along with Peter Easterby, holds the record of most Champion Hurdle wins with five successes.
The well-thought-of son of Desert Prince was second in last season’s Supreme Novices’, and with former winner Binocular no longer the force he was, and Simonsig running over fences, the Henderson yard looks likely to rely on the JP McManus-owned runner.