Champion Hurdle (Cheltenham) Preview & Betting Tips - Tuesday 12th March 2013

The Champion Hurdle is simply the National Hunt calendar’s most prized hurdling event. With past winners including Istabraq and Hardy Eustace, it has a great heritage.

This year’s renewal could turn out to be a battle for glory between the winners of the last three: Binocular (2010), Hurricane Fly (2011) and Rock On Ruby (2012). It is Hurricane Fly who is the bookies’ favourite as things stand – at 2/1 with Stan James – though Rock On Ruby proved this time last year he can get the better of Fly on a good day, and Binocular should never be written off.

All three of those horses ran in this one last year when Rock On Ruby won by almost four lengths from Overturn, with Hurricane Fly in third and Binocular a length further back in fourth. Rock On Ruby went off at 11/1 last year, but is half that at 11/2 with Stan James this time around. That looks a shade short for us, however, after he came only third of seven in the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, behind Zarkandar and Grandouet, both of whom run in this one.

Zarkandar is the second favourite here, at 7/2 across the board. He managed fifth place in last year’s Champion Hurdle, then fell in the Aintree Hurdle a month later. Things have been brighter this season, however, with him winning the aforementioned International Hurdle as well as two hurdles at Wincanton. They have all been Grade 2s, however, and while he won the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival in 2011, we think he might be a little out of his depth here, as he was last time.

So can Binocular – available to back at 9/1 with Totesport and Betfred – make a spectacular bid for victory three years after last winning this race? Well, maybe… but probably not. He has been given just one run out since last year’s fourth place, in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January. He managed third out of five behind the winner Hurricane Fly and second-placed Thousand Stars, but being five lengths down on Willie Mullins’ Hurricane Fly that day does not bode well for his chances here.

So to the favourite, and Hurriance Fly hasn’t lost since his third place in last year’s renewal. Indeed that was the only race he failed to win in his last 12, so was clearly having an off day. In all he’s won 16 of his 19 hurdles, finished second once and third twice. He’s a class act and a worthy favourite here and we think he’ll romp to victory. Get the 2/1 with Coral before they come to their senses and slash it.

If you’re looking for some longer-odds value for an each way punt, you could do worse than to consider last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Winner, Cinders And Ashes, at 12/1 with Stan James. The six-year-old will need to perform better than when fifth in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, but he may have it in him to snatch a place.