Favourite Hurricane Fly is no spring chicken anymore and even though he is lightly raced for a horse of his age (10), there has to be a huge chance that something will improve past him from a very talented bunch of novice hurdlers.
He has a loyal following though and his price will continue to shorten over the winter as he mops up weak races in Ireland, therefore it might be worth getting on at 5/1 then trading off later in the year.
If he does win his third Champion, then he will be the greatest hurdler of all time. We don’t think he’s quite that good to be heralded in such a way.
Better than Istabraq? No way.
Our Conor looks an absolute freak of a horse judging by his win in the JCB Triumph Hurdle last season but don’t get carried away with his chances. Only one five-year-old has won the Champion Hurdle since 1985.
That’s 89 horses of that age group have all tried and failed to land this ultra-competitive race.
It’s usually their inexperience that catches them out rather than their ability as the likes of Punjabi and Binocular all finished placed as a five-year-old before coming back a year later to win as a six-year-old.
You get the feeling that 2015 may be the year to catch Dessie Hughes’ talented youngster, for that reason the 4/1 looks woefully short. Also, the Triumph Hurdle has hardly stood up from a form perspective either and it could be seen as a bit of a weak renewal despite the runaway winner.
The third Sametegal ran creditably to finish second in the Ayr Champion Hurdle but was expected to run with more conviction while the fifth and sixth, Vasco Du Ronceray and Rolling Star, were both beaten a long way the four-year-old feature race at Aintree.
Where is the value then if the two market leaders don’t float out boat?
It lies at the hooves of The New One, who we are expecting to have a very profitable season and could become the next hurdling sensation to follow in the footsteps of Hurricane Fly.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has called this horse the best he’s ever trained and it was easy to see why when he routed a very classy field in the Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
We feel he didn’t get the credit he deserved for that imperious victory, where he beat a very high class bunch of novices.
His Neptune run can also be marked up in our eyes, despite the four-length win.
Caught for a little room around the home turn – shuffled back from third to fifth – Sam Twiston-Davies had to subsequently switch him wide at the top of the bend.
That move would have cost him a few lengths but he quickened electrically and powered up the hill to win with real ease.
Twiston-Davies then threw him against the elders at Aintree and enhanced his reputation by finishing a very respectable second to Zarkandar.
He travelled like the stag he is as usual but was just outstayed by a very gutsy horse who improved plenty for the application of headgear.
The Neptune has proven to be a sensational trial for the Champion Hurdle over the years.
As its run over 2m4f stamina is guaranteed for succesfull horses that drop back in trip to contest the Champion, which although recognised as a speedy race, actually takes some getting when they grind their way up the hill.
The last highest placed finishers in the Neptune to have undertaken the Champion challenge the following season have all run huge races. Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Rock On Ruby all won whilst Peddlers Cross, Danoli and French Holly all finished placed.
The New One is the value at 8/1 with Ladbrokes.