Bet On The Champion Hurdle 2013

Bet365 are now offering non-runner/no bet on Cheltenham’s feature races so you can back your selection without having to worry about late injuries or withdrawals. Hurricane Fly has shortened to 13-8 favourite following the fatal injury sustained by leading market rival Darlan at Doncaster. Jockey Ruby Walsh has committed himself to riding the 2011 Champion Hurdle winner following two effortless victories at Leopardstown. No real explanation has ever been offered for his disappointing third behind Rock On Ruby last year but Trainer Willie Mullins is confident that he now has him in peak form.

Rock On Ruby is now officially in the care of Harry Fry who was largely responsible for masterminding his great victory 12 months ago. He showed that he was coming back to his best last time out when beating Countrywide Flame and looks set to make a bold defence of his crown. Noel Fehily rode a copybook race last year when tracking the pace-setting Overturn before kicking on up the straight. Finishing best of all that day was Zarkandar who eventually finished fifth but champion trainer Paul Nicholls believes that he has him in far better condition this year. He has won all three races this season with the minimum of fuss and looks certain to finish closer this time.

Although beaten by Rock On Ruby at Doncaster, Countrywide Flame has proved that he likes Cheltenham when winning the Triumph Hurdle and he looks capable of getting in the frame at decent odds. He looked a real contender when he slammed Cinders And Ashes at Newcastle and a repeat of that form would see him go close. Nicky Henderson may have lost Darlan but he still has a strong hand with International Hurdle runner-up Grandouet, the 2010 winner Binocular and outsider Khyber Kim. He may yet be tempted to run Oscar Whisky if the ground comes up soft but the World Hurdle is his more likely objective.

Grandouet looked to have a live chance last year before picking up an injury and he has been reduced to just one start so far this season. He stuck on well in heavy ground without ever looking like beating Zarkandar and his rider will be at pains to keep him covered up as long as possible. Henderson has been unusually bullish about the chances of Binocular recently but there seems no obvious reason why he should reverse Leopardstown form with Hurricane Fly.

Cotton Mill may be the best of the outsiders after his fine run behind My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle. The winner is considered by many to be worthy of a place in this race and a win by him in the opening race of the meeting would be a further pointer to Cotton Mill’s chances. Trainer John Ferguson is still considering whether to run him here or in one of the meeting’s big handicaps.

This looks like a strong renewal with the past three winners of the Champion Hurdle and two winners of the Triumph Hurdle. Hurricane Fly looks quite short considering the quality of the opposition and an each-way bet on Countrywide Flame at 14-1 with Bet365 could prove to be more rewarding.

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