Hurricane Fly the right price
Leading Irish racing journalist Donn McClean brings you his thoughts ahead of day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
- Related Content
Jezki has been the leading Irish player in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle act since he showed that impressive turn of foot to easily land the Paddy Power Future Champions Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival. However, soft ground tempers enthusiasm a little. He has won on soft ground but, such is the potency of his turn of foot, it might just be blunted by testing conditions. By contrast, soft ground is in Un Atout's favour - it is all he has ever encountered in public - and it should bring Champagne Fever's undoubted stamina into play.
It is interesting that Willie Mullins has elected to allow the Deloitte Hurdle winner take his chance in the curtain-raiser instead of running him in the Albert Bartlett on Friday, which appeared to be the plan until a couple of days ago. It is even more interesting that Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride him in front of Dodging Bullets. The Irish team should expose any flaws in My Tent Or Yours. It is a strong raiding party.
Hand on heart, it is difficult to see Arvika Ligeonniere beating Simonsig in the Arkle. The soft ground will be in his favour, he handles it well and he stays two and a half miles, but he will probably be taken on for the lead by Overturn, and possibly by Baily Green, and that is not ideal. Also, he has shown a tendency in the past to jump to his right, which is a worry.
White Star Line is not without a chance in the JLT Handicap Chase, he chased Hunt Ball home in the Pulteney Land Investments Chase at last year's Festival, and he is 3lb lower now than he was then. He didn't shape at all badly either on his latest run behind Home Farm at Fairyhouse two weeks ago, and this race has probably been his target for a while. He is interesting, but it is a hot race.
Hurricane Fly looked very short when he was trading at 6/4 and 13/8 in the Champion Hurdle ante post markets, but now he has been eased to 9/4 - slightly bigger on the exchanges - and there is every chance that the easy ground will help him. He is the correct favourite for the race, and he is on his way out to his correct price now. It would be fantastic to see him regain his crown.
Bostons Angel is interesting in the Cross-Country Chase, having his second run over the course, after running well to finish second to compatriot Outlaw Pete in December on his debut. His rating of 145 is 7lb lower than the rating he was awarded after he won the RSA Chase in 2011, and his enthusiasm seems to have been re-kindled by hunting and taking part in these cross-country races.
That said, Arabella Boy is solid. He beat Bostons Angel at Punchestown in November, and he was travelling well when he unseated his rider in that cross-country race at Cheltenham in December. Since then, he ran out an impressive winner over the banks course at Punchestown last month, and he is trained by cross-country master Enda Bolger, who has trained four of the last eight winners of this race, and will be ridden by Nina Carberry, who has ridden three of the last six.
Quevega should win the Mares' Hurdle - she always does - and Carlito Brigante looks well-handicapped on a mark of 137 in the Rewards4Racing Chase, given that he raced off a mark of 155 in last year's Coral Cup. His win in the 2011 Coral Cup (off a 2lb higher mark than today's) proved that he could handle the track and Cheltenham Festival conditions, and he is sure to have been trained for this race from a while ago. It is just a pity for Gordon Elliott's horse that the rains have not relented. All his best form is on good ground.