Nicky Henderson has not had a great time of it with drugs recently. His latest faux pas sees Champion Hurdle betting favourite Binocular miss the big race at the Festival on Tuesday because he would otherwise have tested positive for medication given to relieve an allergy.
JP McManus must truly be the racehorse owner from heaven not to punish his trainer for that lack of judgment. Nevertheless, Henderson can console himself with his medical mismanagement as Binocular would not have retained his crown whatever jungle juice was pumped into his veins. The Champion Hurdle is a much better race this year and if Khyber Kim makes the first two again I will buy a hat and eat it.
Menorah is lightly-raced, progressive and has never been out of the first two. His form figures at Cheltenham read 111 and given this is a unique track, that course specialist tag is noteworthy. Philip Hobbs has campaigned him with the Champion Hurdle in mind. He also has the best jumps jockey in the plate, Richard Johnson. He is very hard to pass over.
Peddlers Cross, from the excellent Donald McCain yard, can not be dismissed in the betting either. It is rare that sons of “great” trainers are better than their fathers. Obviously David Pipe is streets ahead of father Martin and now Donald has proved himself the superior of Ginger. Jockey Jason Maguire needed legal representation to ensure he would be allowed to ride Peddlers Cross in the Champion Hurdle. Who could resent him victory? Interestingly, Peddlers Cross is undefeated in his lifetime, including victory in the 2m5f Grade 1 Neptune Novices Hurdle on this track. If there is a chink then it could be the shorter trip and speed test for the son of Oscar who started life winning a point-to-point.
I have a sneaking each-way fancy for Donald McCain’s other runner, the high class flat horse Overturn. At around 40/1 he is seriously over-priced. His odds should be nearer 16/1. The fast ground will play to his strengths. He makes strong each-way appeal.
The one who will carry my money to win the contest has to be Hurricane Fly. Sure the son of Montjeu does not boast course form, but then he has never run at Cheltenham so that may be part of the problem. What he does boast is nine victories from his last eleven races including his last four, all Grade 1 hurdles. But it is not the form book that makes the biggest appeal. What impresses most about this horse is his turn of foot and the way he travels. Hurricane Fly oozes class and speed. And before you ask, yes he has done it on fast ground too. The formidable Irish team of trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh mean there is serious pedigree in Hurricane Fly’s corner. Grab your Cheltenham betting wad and look no further.