With the final field for the Stan James Champion Hurdle declared Crockford assesses the chances of the nine runners
In what is a most anticipated renewal of the Stan James Champion Hurdle in years, the mighty Irish challengers will clash with the up and coming UK runners.
Crockford assesses the chances of each of the entries in what looks to be the race of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival:
Captain Cee Bee (200/1)
Almost certain to bring the pace angle to the race for his fellow JP McManus runners. On his day he could have figured in punters considerations but those days are now gone.
Very useful on his day, Alan King’s hope will be outclassed in this stella field. Grumeti has six and a half lengths alone to find with Melodic Rendezvous when finishing third behind him at Wincanton run in the Kingwell Hurdle.
Hurricane Fly (11/4 JFav)
Unbeaten since the 2012 Stan James Champion Hurdle, Hurricane Fly comes to this year’s renewal with what looks to be a perfect preparation having already twice defeated the leading Irish challengers Our Conor and Jezki. According to connections the champion is still improving and at ten may be now at his best. As Patrick Mullins confirmed via twitter earlier in the week the team have no fears about the field size or the tactics of the pace. Worthy favourite to fly to victory in a third Stan James Champion Hurdle.
Some believe that Jezki could be a major player on the drying ground, said to be unlucky when he first faced Hurricane Fly and Our Conor this season. His price suggests the improvement needed for him to figure in what is the hottest of renewals.
Melodic Rendezvous (20/1)
Apparently overlooked by the markets Jeremy Scott’s horse has done little wrong this season. The only disappointment came with a fifth in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, but that effort has been put behind him with his wins at Haydock and Wincanton. Holds strong each ways at his best.
My Tent Or Yours (9/2)
As support has come for other horses over the last week or so My Tent Or Yours has drifted in the market. His victory over The New One at Christmas is one of the most talked about races. Just beaten last year by Champagne Fever, when considered the certainty of the Festival, connections will hope to go one better. May just be short of the ability of the Irish raiders.
Our Conor (4/1)
The endorsements keep coming for Dessie Hughes’ Our Connor. Earlier in the week the legendary gambler Barney Curley told Galway Preview attendees that Our Conor e/w was his bet of the Cheltenham Festival. This faith has been matched by the confidence shown by his owner Barry Connell. Imperious last year in the Triumph, he is sure to be ready for the race and does not need to improve much to be on terms with Hurricane Fly on their last racecourse performances.
Ptit Zig (50/1)
Trainer Nicholls believes that this good horse is worthy of taking his chance in the big prize. Defeated last time by the in-form Melodic Rendezvous the limits of his ability may have been exposed. Worthy of his chance but hard to see him figuring in the finish.
The New One (11/4 JFav)
Impressive winner of the Neptune last year at the Festival and so highly regarded by his yard, The New One is the young pretender. Some say he was unlucky at Kempton on Boxing Day and would have beaten My Tent Or Yours if were not for his mistake at the last. If the Champion Hurdle was over half a mile longer he might have irresistible claims.
Crockford’s prediction for Stan James Champion Hurdle:
1 HURRICANE FLY
2 OUR CONOR
3 MELODIC RENDEZVOUS
The Irish will be smiling with a one-two in the big race. Hurricane Fly will claim a third Stan James Champion Hurdle and will finally get the full recognition he deserves. Our Conor will signal that he is a certain future winner of the contest and Melodic Rendezvous will provide excellent each way value for punters at 20/1 for the place.
* Odds quoted are from Stan James at 2pm Sunday 9 March 2014
(Featured Photograph – The New One at Cheltenham by Stuart Rice)