Nick Wilby takes a look at the Champion Hurdle and gives his tips ahead of the 2012 Cheltenham Festival showpiece.
Thousands of Irish punters descending on Prestbury Park will be confident that Willie Mullins’ HURRICANE FLY
) can fly their flag and secure his status as their best hurdler since the mighty Istabraq and it looks unlikely he will be turned over in the opening day feature.
The Irish raider was unbeaten in five Grade One starts last season and he seemed to improve with every race, winning the Champion Hurdle before scoring with consummate ease at the Punchestown Festival.
Off the track for some time at the start of this campaign, he returned with a most impressive performance in the Irish Champion Hurdle and Hurricane Fly seemed to answer almost every question, turning in a near-faultless round to win easily.
What most people will agree on is that Hurricane Fly has everything you would want to see in a Champion Hurdle contender. His jumping is near faultless when he is concentrating on the task and he has enough speed to keep himself in a race should he make an early mistake. His slick jumping and his ability to cruise into a challenging position before knuckling down to the task are a potent mix and he has proved that he doesn’t mind getting in a battle to the line.
With the likes of Zarkandar (7/1, Ladbrokes)
, Oscars Well (14/1, Coral
) and Rock On Ruby (10/1, Ladbrokes
) taking their chance in the opening day feature, the challenge to Hurricane Fly doesn’t look as tough as it might be.
Indeed, the horse most likely to chase him home will be 2010 Champion Hurdle hero Binocular (5/1, Stan James
) who has looked good since undergoing a breathing operation this season. He is a classy operator who could pose a threat to the favourite.
However the guaranteed fast pace and good ground at Cheltenham are certain to suit Hurricane Fly’s breathtaking acceleration and with his slick jumping, ability to stay and his desire to get his head in front, the French import has all the necessary ingredients to confirm he is the best hurdler on both sides of the Irish Sea. He rates as my bet of the whole Cheltenham Festival.
Nick Wilby’s selection
- Hurricane Fly
(NAP) 10/11, Paddy Power
(Champion Hurdle Cashback Special - Money back from Boylesports
if your horse finishes second)