The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. This Grade 1 race, run over a distance of 2m 110y, on good to soft going, is open to horses aged four years and older, the youngest to take part this year is five, with old timer Captain Cee Bee, seemingly making up the numbers at the age of thirteen. This is a fantastic race for punters looking for free bets and enhanced offers, so don't miss out, especially if opening a new account with top bookmaker William Hill.
Notable victories of this race include inaugural winner Blaris (1927), Istabraq (2000) and last triple winner & legendary Dawn Run (1984). Only the second mare to taste victory in this contest, going on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1986). The only horse to complete this notable double. Last year's winner Hurricane Fly, trained by Willie Mullins, was the first horse in 38 years to reclaim the Champion Hurdle after denying old adversary Rock On Ruby, who heads for the Arkle Chase. This bay gelding, a son of Montjeu, shades favouritism. Hurricane Fly is a true talent, winning 21 of his 24 races over hurdles, achieving prize money of over £1.6 m.
Experience tells Hurricane Fly will take all the beating here.
His main opposition include hot fancy The New One. Nigel Twiston-Davies son of King's Theatre sits at the head of the betting with the Mullin's-trained talent, and may even go off favourite (unlikely).
He is closely matched with My Tent Or Yours on their recent running at Kempton over 2m when the later blundered at the last, his jockey losing an iron, before a narrow half-length loss. The pair were closely matched in the betting that day there is likely to be very little between them today.
Jezki is a fine young horse but looks held by Hurricane Fly and My Tent Or Yours. Mrs John Harrington has opted for the hood first time in an effort to garner a fraction more ability.
Our Conor, a five year old gelding, has struggled to contend with Hurricane Fly on their last two meeting, but in truth has done exceptionally well competing against older, stronger talents this season. Few could forget his impressive victory in last year's JCB Triumph Hurdle. Dessie Hughes' runner made a big impact that day and loved every inch of Cheltenham. This son of Jeremy, will have many punters thinking Prestbury Park could bring this horse on a few pounds and pose a serious threat.
Melodic Rendezvous, Ptit Zig, Captain Cee Bee & Grumeti will need to have lady luck on their side to figure here.
Conclusion: A truly fascinating race. Hurricane Fly is definitely the horse to beat. A winner in this race on two of his three starts affirms that the Willie Mullins team may taste victory today. Ruby Walsh has been very critical of himself suggesting he still hasn't ridden this horse to his best at Cheltenham. If that is true, he must be stiff competition. Walsh will be at pains to get it right this year and something tells me he will. Hurricane Fly is the tip selection, while Our Conor is worth a small each way saver as this course looks made for this youngster.