By Sean Goff | Cheltenham 2013 tips
The last three winners of the Champion Hurdle will line up among the 10 declared runners in the opening-day feature on Tuesday. Rock on Ruby and Binocular will join Hurricane Fly but My Tent or Yours will go for the Supreme Novice Hurdle removing a key stumbling block to 2/1 favourite Hurricane Fly regaining the crown he won in 2011.
But there are other obstacles. Paddy’s up for the craic either way and has gone Money Back All Losers if Hurricane Fly wins next Tuesday.
Ruby’s had his say and told the Paddy Power Blog that he hopes Hurricane Fly takes Paddy to the cleaners.
I love Hurricane Fly and I can’t wait to ride him’, Ruby told Paddy Power. ‘He’s going to take a lot of beating with any normal luck. I can’t wait to look Paddy Power in the eye after the race.
While last year’s leading rider at the Festival – Barry Geraghty – and 5/4 favourite to win it again this year thinks The Fly is beatable.
His win over Peddlars Cross in 2011 was no more impressive than Rock on Ruby winning last year. The jury is out on him for me.
And Ruby and the Fly have to overcome a few more key stats….
#1. No nine-year-old has won the Champion Hurdle since Rooster Booster in 2003.
#2. No previous winner has regained the crown since Comedy of Errors in 1975 while …
#3. Only three winners aged eight and over have won in 58 years.
Sea Pigeon’s second Champion Hurdle win aged 11 in 1981 will give favourite backers some comfort as does Hurricane Fly’s 14 Grade Ones wins to date including a four-race unbeaten run-up to Tuesday’s feature.
In the past retaining the crown has proven easier than regaining it as Hardy Eustace (2004 & 2005), Istabraq (1998-2000) and See You Then (1985-87) have shown. Rock on Ruby is out to prove that stat again. Cinders and Ashes has his work cut out as no winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle has gone on to claim the Champion crown the following season since Bula in 1971.
On the plus side for the ‘Fly’ seven of the last 10 winners had won last time out bringing the total to 24 of the last 29 Champion Hurdle winners scoring on their latest start. Going into the race with a ‘1’ before your name is a big plus.
Reigning champion Rock on Ruby beat off last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame – looking to become the first Triumph winner since Katchit in 2008 to win the Champion Hurdle the following year – at Doncaster on his last start. Although both would have had to settle for minor honours behind Darlan until his fatal fall.
If you’re still not sure – look at the odds. 19 of the last 20 winners came from the first six in the betting so on all known trends the winner will most likely come from Hurricane Fly, Zarkandar, Rock on Ruby, Grandouet or Cinders and Ashes.