An Al Duncan musing

14th  December 2010 : Champion Hurdle thoughts

I don’t know about you, but I’m suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

I love attending race meetings (jumps, of course), and each weekend usually involves an early morning car journey from my home in Edinburgh to the Dodlands Stable gallops.
But, for the second time this year, unusually bitter weather, prolonged, has curtailed both of the these activities, and even televised jumps racing from the south is at a premium.
So, a little earlier than usual, my thoughts have turned to the Champion Hurdle, to be run at Cheltenham in March.

Having backed Get Me Out of Here in last season’s Supreme Novices, the horse who beat him that day – Menorah – has never since been a particular favourite. But I was bowled over with his performance just a couple of days ago to beat Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti, although not quite over the same course & distance as the Champion Hurdle itself. Now it may be that the beaten two are at their best over further, but the ease in which Menorah changed gear 2 out was breathtaking.

 Binocular is an enigma. At best, he is the top 2 mile hurdler in the country, and it seems it was only me who thought he looked to be carrying a fair degree of condition on his reappearance in the Fighting Fifth when third to Peddlers Cross. Still, you can take it that Henderson will be training him with the Champion in mind, and we might not expect to see him hit form until that day. Doesn’t appeal as an ante-post bet, then.

I love Steve Mason’s RPRs in the Racing Post – my betting strategy is based entirely around these figures – and there is not much between Peddlers Cross, Menorah & Starluck on that basis. I’ll exclude Starluck though, as I reckon he is at the top of his game (excellent though), and won’t get better.
The progressive Peddlers Cross would be the type to take it up 3 out, and yell ‘come catch me’ to opponents. He is unbeaten, and a Festival winner already - of the 2m 5f novice.

Hurricane Fly appears to be following the Binocular ‘it’ll be alright on the day’ route. High class, progressive, delicate – all suggested by a total of 3 runs in 2 years. Doesn’t appeal ante-post, and I’ll decide on the day whether he justifies support.

 Dunguib does not jump fast enough to live with the best over 2 miles.

Solwhit is a high class hurdler – when the going is riding soft. The Cheltenham executive have taken great strides since the late 70s to ensure the ground is no worse than good to soft at the Festival, so I fear that this fine racehorse will be placed but not quick enough to win.

Khyber Kim was the 2009 winner of the hurdle race won by Menorah last Saturday (the Grade 2 ‘Bula’). Next to Binocular, last year’s Champion runner-up has the best form in the book, and 16-1 can be had at the moment. Yet to re-appear this season, but he improved in astounding fashion during the course of last season. He'll  by a 9yr old when the race is run - too old.

Last year’s favourite Go Native was racing to win a £1 million bonus, but jumped badly early on and finished well behind. Trainer Meade plans to bring him back in the New Year, but his form will have to be taken on trust. Big price (25s) at present.

So, where does that leave me. I do think that the new school will come through this year, with Menorah proving best from Peddlers Cross.

Now, that's your Cheltenham lay all sorted.............

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