At the latest declaration stage, 34 horses remain in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle, eight of which are trained by Nicky Henderson, including the Boylesports 4/1 second-favourite, Darlan.
Boylesports, Ireland’s largest independent bookmaker, is offering 13/8 that Henderson trains the winner of the Grade 1 contest in March.
Among Henderson’s octet are two previous Champion Hurdle winners, Binocular and Punjabi, and Boylesports are offering 13/8 that one of the four previous winners entered this time around goes on to score this year.
Leon Blanche, Head of Communications at Boylesports, commented: “Another high-class renewal of the blue riband event for hurdlers lies ahead, one that could possibly contain the last four winners of the contest. Our market leader is Hurricane Fly, the 2011 winner and Ireland’s main hope, at 7/2.”
Last season, Rock On Ruby won the contest from this year’s Arkle contender Overturn, but the current Champion Hurdler has since changed handlers and is now under the supervision of rookie trainer Harry Fry. The eight-year old made an encouraging seasonal reappearance for Fry when third behind fellow Champion hopefuls Zarkandar and Grandouet in the StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
“I think he will have had to have improved since last year’s Champion Hurdle to win this year’s race but he has improved and is much bigger and stronger”.
“Rock On Ruby is still very much on course for the Stan James Champion Hurdle,” said Fry.
“My assistant, Ciara O’Connor, who rides Rock On Ruby every day, has been saying that all season and Noel felt exactly the same after the run in December.”
The ante-post favourite with Boylesports.com is Willie Mullins’ stable star Hurricane Fly. As a short 4/6 favourite for the festival race last year, the French bred gelding failed to set Cheltenham alight like was he expected to do. This year he has yet to be asked any major questions. Nicky Henderson’s Christmas Hurdle winner Darlan is now 4/1 second-favourite after being available at odds as large 12/1 prior to that success. He could be good value at 4/1 still as he looks the strongest hurdler to date this season. He was an impressive winner on his last outing and is thought a lot of in the Henderson yard.
Nicky Henderson to train the winner of the 2013 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, 13/8
For one of the four previous winners entered for the race to win the 2013 Champion Hurdle, 13/8