HURRICANE Fly, the Willie Mullins-trained winner of the race in 2011, bids to regain his crown at the expense of rivals that include last year’s victor Rock On Ruby writes Milesey. This season he’s arrived at the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle once again undefeated – including an impressive showing in his last race where he cruised to victory in the BHP Insurance sponsored Irish Champion Hurdle (2m) at Leopardstown in late January (a race which also featured French fancy Binocular). Binocular will be the likely mount of AP McCoy but may not be classy enough to win this. He won a weak looking Champion Hurdle in 2010. Was sixth in last year’s race and finished 5l behind Hurrican Fly in his only run this season. The 2012 Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby has been brought on steadily this season by Harry Fry in a bid to retain his title. He made a seasonal debut at Cheltenham, finishing third behind Zarkandar on heavy going. He may have needed that run and came on from that to win a listed event at Doncaster last month although may have benefited from the unfortunate Darlan falling.
Zarkandar is Paul Nicholls only entry here. This horse finished fifth last year and apart from a fall at Aintree, he has won all his other starts over hurdles so far.
Countrywide Flame, winner of the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago, disappointed in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, but looked more like his old self when second behind last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby at Doncaster last month.
Grandouet was beaten by Zarkandar at Cheltenham in December but that was his first run for a year and it would be no surprise to see him right in the mix at the final flight.
Of the rest Cinders And Ashes has yet to recapture his novice form while Cotton Mill, second behind My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle on his seasonal debut, could be an interesting each way prospect.
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