The best backed horse since the Irish Champion Hurdle at the end of January has been Our Conor. Despite being beaten for a second consecutive time by Hurricane Fly, Dessie Hughes’s runner is now 9/2 from 7/1. He was 5/1 for the opening-day feature after he won the Triumph Hurdle last year and his price drifted through the winter on the back of an interrupted preparation and being well beaten at Leopardstown over Christmas.
While the Irish Champion Hurdle was run in a slow time and with Captain Cee Bee so close at the finish. many punters have taken the view that it was a false-run race which played into Hurricane Fly’s hands. Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle will play much more to Our Conor’s strengths.
Our Conor is the second biggest loser in our book to the Fly – while The New One is the best backed of the English challengers. JP McManus seems to have kept his powder dry so far.
There has been little action of late for either of his pair My Tent Or Yours – who won his Kempton bumper prep last Sunday - or Jezki. But it’s still early days. We are joint best price on the The New One, Jezki and My Tent Or Yours.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
With reigning champion Sprinter Sacre ruled out by Nicky Henderson Sire De Grugy is our new favourite at a best-priced 2/1. The Irish pair of Arvika Ligeonnaire and Benefficient have shortened into 9/2 and 5/1 and this market should start to hot up now the uncertainty around Sprinter Sacre is gone. And it’s still non-runner money back on the Champion Chase.
After Big Buck’s finished third in the Cleeve Hurdle – there were contrasting opinions in the industry about the 11-year-old’s World Hurdle prospects.
We went 3/1 best for the World Hurdle straight afterwards (Ladbrokes went 5/4 and are still that price) and held it until the six-figure liabilities kicked in 24 hours later. We’re still industry best-price at 9/4 and are still keen to take the four times champion on.
As Cheltenham nears it’s looking marginally more likely that Annie Power will run in the World Hurdle and not the Champion Hurdle. We have been doing our best to duck her all along as she very highly thought of at Willie Mullins’ yard and has improved with every victory. Right now we’d take any result in the race – bar Big Buck’s.
The top two have been very settled in the market since Bobs Worth (Lexus Chase) and Silviniaco Conti (King George VI) won at Christmas. But there has been action for others since at bigger prices after recent impressive trials.
We cut Last Instalment to 7-1 from 25-1 after his Irish Hennessy win on Feb 8, while Harry Topper came into 20-1 from 33′s after winning the Denman Chase at Newbury. The The Argento winner at the track, the Giant Bolster is also 20-1 from 33-1 while the victory of Captain Chris at Ascot last Saturday leaves him on 33s from 40s after Philip Hobbs signalled he could line up in the final-day feature.
Any movement from here on in is likely to be ground related as while the front two have ground preferences both are proven on good and soft and the same not cannot be said for the rest.
If the ground looks like being good expect Cue Card, First Lieutenant, Captain Chris and Dynaste to shorten in advance. If the rain keeps up and we’re looking at a soft-ground Festival then Last Instalment, Harry Topper, The Giant Bolster and possibly even Tidal Bay could all be in vogue.
At least there’s the safety net of non-runner no bet on the Blue Riband and we’re joint best-price on Silvinicao Conti and Cue Card.