The 2014 Cheltenham Festival starts on Tuesday and we’re backing Irving to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
We’re all set for the Cheltenham roar that will accompany the start of the Supreme at 1.30pm on Tuesday 11 March, with thousands of racegoers descending on Prestbury Park to enjoy seven top-class races that also include the Arkle and Champion Hurdle.
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Hurricane Fly returns to the Festival bidding to win a third Champion Hurdle crown, although the ten-year-old faces stiff competition from younger rivals including Our Conor, The New One and My Tent Or Yours.
Meanwhile, Quevega is looking to win an amazing sixth Mares’ Hurdle and will go off odds-on favourite on Tuesday, while last year’s Supreme winner Champagne Fever is favourite to claim victory in the Arkle.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins saddled Champagne Fever to victory twelve months ago and the same trainer has two lively contenders for the Festival opener, with Vautour and Wicklow Brave second and third favourite respectively to claim victory in the Supreme.
Ruby Walsh has taken the ride of the former who is a best price 10/3 with Coral free bet, indicating that the jockey prefers his chances to Wicklow Brave, although the latter can be backed at 7/1 which is more of a meaty each-way price.
Nevertheless, we’re a favourite backer for this race as Irving has given every indication that he will run a massive race for Paul Nicholls and find plenty when asked coming up the Cheltenham hill.
The six-year-old has won on his last five outings and has looked electric this season and was a facile winner of a Grade 2 race at Kempton last month, having impressed when winning at Ascot in December.
PICK: Irving @ 5/2 with bet365 or 2/1 with Paddy Power, getting your money back if the horse finishes second, third or fourth.
This looks a cracking renewal of the Arkle which was won by Simonsig last year, with Nicky Henderson having also won the race in 2012 when Sprinter Sacre was outstanding in victory. The trainer’s hopes of a consecutive hat-trick lie with Grandouet and the talented seven-year-old is not without a chance despite failing to win a race since December 2011.
The horse is a 12/1 chance to claim the spoils although there are several other classy horses in the race including Champagne Fever, who made all in the Supreme twelve months ago and is expected to set a merry pace on Tuesday.
Betfred offer 3/1 about Mullins saddling him to victory although his jumping was far from fluent on Boxing Day, with Trifolium looking like a better each-way bet at odds of 5/1 and there have been lots of positive noises coming from Gigginstown.
The seven-year-old was excellent on heavy ground at Leopardstown when beating Felix Yonger by nine lengths and is arguably the best jumper in the field which bodes well considering it will be a fierce pace over two miles.
Rock On Ruby has a sound Cheltenham record having won a Champion Hurdle at the Festival, while Dodging Bullets runs for Paul Nicholls, although let’s stick with Trifolium who finished ahead of Champagne Fever on Boxing Day and ran well when finishing third in the Supreme in 2012.
PICK: Trifolium @ 5/1 with William Hill
You wouldn’t have got rich opposing Hurricane Fly throughout his career, although all good things must come to an end and perhaps the ten-year-old will struggle to fend off the challenge of three young pretenders in this year’s Champion Hurdle.
The Fly is bidding for a third crown having ran a blinder twelve months ago and the horse has won on all three outings this term, although the most recent victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle was only by a short distance ahead of Our Conor.
Indeed, the five-year-old could improve greatly for that run and any improvement might see the Dessie Hughes horse power up the Cheltenham hill to become the latest Irish raider to win this race, with odds of 4/1 available that he claims victory.
There was everything to like about Our Conor’s explosive Triumph Hurdle win last year, although there is an English horse looking to keep the crown on these shores and The New One could yet go off favourite for this race.
Nigel Twiston-Davies believes that the six-year-old has the gears to win the race and is expecting his charge to reverse the finishing places in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton where My Tent Or Yours claimed victory.
The New One will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies and it was plain sailing in the International Hurdle at this track in mid-December, although the main opposition that day was Zarkandar and perhaps the Irish challenge will prove too strong.
My Tent Or Yours had an injury scare recently although boasts an unbeaten record this season, while Barry Geraghty will be on board his stable-mate Jezki who will look to bounce back from a disappointing fourth in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Un De Sceaux looks unlikely to run in the race, with Annie Power having already been switched to the World Hurdle, with Melodic Rendezvous a 20/1 chance if you think that the eight-year-old can find the requisite improvement to feature at the business end of the race.
PICK: Our Conor @ 4/1 with bet365