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Cheltenham Festival 2011 

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2011 Champion Hurdle Latest Prospects

At one time it appeared that the 2011 Champion Hurdle might end up being a two horse race between reigning champion, Binocular and Irish raider, Hurricane Fly. Many were talking up the dual between the two in the same vein as they talked up the Kauto Star/Denman dual for the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup. However the defeat of Binocular by rising star, Peddlers Cross in the re-arranged Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newbury at the end of November has everyone now re-thinking the race.

Peddlers Cross (blue cap)

Peddlers Cross

Peddlers Cross finished over 7 lengths in front of a lacklustre, Binocular, who could only finish third that day after Starluck had also made sure work of him, by getting up easily to take second place. Nicky Henderson, trainer of Binocular did not seem that perturbed by the performance, likening the run to his opening two runs last season, where he finished behind Go Native in both the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle. This is probably why Binocular remains favourite to retain his Hurdling crown at Cheltenham in March, but there are many who now believe that Peddlers Cross, trained by Donald McCain is a very serious contender, more so than even Hurricane Fly.

Willie Mullins, trainer of Hurricane Fly is frustrated that he has not yet been able to get a run into his star hurdler, due to the bad weather. The injury plagued 6 year old was due to take on another Champion Hurdle favourite, Solwhit in the Hatton Grace Hurdle at Punchestown last week, but that race did not take place and efforts are being made to re-arrange it. Until he makes an appearance this season then the jury will remain out as to his real chance of Champion Hurdle glory.



2010 Supreme Novice, Menorah is also a big fancy to win the Champion Hurdle but looked in need of the run when narrowly winning the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle in the middle of November at Cheltenham. He is now due to take on another rising star in Cue Card this weekend in the Grade 2, International Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he is also due to face the unbeaten, Paul Nicholls trained, Silviniaco Conti, who has looked nothing short than sensational in his three starts this year. The latest two of the stars have been at Grade 2 level, firstly taking the Persian War Novice Hurdle by 10 lengths from Captain Chris and then last month he won the Ascot Hurdle by 7 lengths from the very useful Karabak.

Cue Card

Cue Card

2010 Champion Bumper winner Cue Card of course is also unbeaten, and comes to Cheltenham on Saturday after looking mightily impressive when winning the Grade 2 Cheltenham Collection Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham. Trained by Colin Tizzard, this 4 year old has a big reputation to upheld in this race, which should he lose he will be aimed at the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, however, should he win, ‘caution may be despatched in the wind’ meaning that he will take on his elders in the ‘Champion’.

Another leading fancy for the Champion Hurdle is of course, the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Khyber Kim, who was second in the race, behind Binocular last year. He came out of that race in great shape and went on to win the Grade 1, Aintree Hurdle three weeks later, easily defeating the bery highly regarded Muirhead, amongst others in the process. He is next likely to be seen in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing day at Kempton Park, where connections believe is certain to run a huge race after the form he has been showing at home.

The antepost market for the Champion Hurdle illustrates just how competitive the race promises to be with splitting the top four in the betting by just two and half points offering 9/2 about Binocular and 7/1 Menorah. Cue Card is a dangerous 16/1 for the Champion Hurdle with some bookies a price that could look huge should he step up to the required level in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham then it has to be thought he is more likely to head for the first champion race of the 2011 Festival instead of the Supreme Novices, for which the Colin Tizzard runner is the 5/2 favourite.


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