Friday 31 January 2014

Fly proves he’ll be hard to beat in Champion Hurdle

When it comes to the most sought after Cheltenham Festival bets at the 2014 renewal of the outstanding National Hunt meeting, there appears little doubt that one of the most popular horses with punters is likely to be the dual Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly, writes Elliot Slater.

The horse who has won more Grade 1 races than any other on the Flat or jumps in history - not just in Britain but anywhere in the world - the Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old remains the one they all have to beat as he goes for a famous third win in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy on March 11, the opening day of the eagerly anticipated fixture at which more than a quarter-of-a-million racegoers are expected to be in attendance during the four days of the meeting.

Everyone will be looking for a banker and Hurricane Fly is sure to be one of the most feature Cheltenham Festival bets, especially as his two-mile championship race takes place on the first day of the meeting and a win would give punters a great start and plenty of cash with which to go to war against the bookies for the rest of the week.

Defeated only once in his last 17 starts over the last four years when having an off-day and running only third to Rock On Ruby in the 2012 Champion Hurdle, the gelded son of Montjeu has struck up a tremendous relationship with star Irish jockey Ruby Walsh, a factor that shone through on his most recent outing when he had to pull out all the stops to beat the young pretender Our Conor in a tremendous renewal of the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.

His length-and-a-half defeat of last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner threw down the gauntlet to the younger brigade and showed that it will take a really good one to beat this legendary horse at Cheltenham in March.