15:20 Cheltenham: Each-way bet to nothing on Rock On Ruby

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The Champion Hurdle stands to be one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival with three former winners in the field, two other Triumph Hurdle victors and others with placed Festival form in the past.

Picking a winner is exceedingly tough, which indicates that an each-way bet to nothing on defending champion Rock On Ruby at 5/1 may be the way to go here.

Hurricane Fly is the 9/4 favourite, but now that he is a nine-year-old, it is hard to see him improving on past form.

He won this in 2011, but there was no other rival rated higher than 165 that day, here there are four which shows the quality of the field.

Hurricane Fly does remain the one to beat, but he has not beaten the most high-quality fields in Ireland this year and he is plenty short enough for a horse that has some doubts hanging over him.

Zarkandar is arguably the biggest battler in the field and the only time he has failed to win a completed start was in the Champion Hurdle last year, when he suffered a troubled preparation.

Things have gone much more smoothly this time and given the limited chinks in his armour, 3/1 is a fair price that he makes amends for last year.

The one worry is that he only beat Grandouet by two lengths when receiving 4lb in the International Hurdle in December and the runner-up was having his first run for over a year.

Grandouet is 8/1 to win the Champion Hurdle and he would be the stand-out bet if not for the reports about his well-being in the lead up to the race.

There has been constant speculation about how good his work has been at home and the soft ground won’t suit him.

In reality, there are too many ifs, buts and maybes about Grandouet to support him with any confidence, which is also true of fellow Nicky Henderson runner Binocular, who can never be trusted to produce his best.

The ground is also too soft for Cinders And Ashes, while Countrywide Flame looks good enough for a place at best.

This leaves Rock On Ruby, who has not been out of the first three in 13 starts since his racecourse debut and there has been a buzz from his yard suggesting he is hitting his peak at the right time.

No outright front runner in the field is a slight negative, but the fitting of blinkers indicate that he may cut his own pace and should he be allowed to dictate, Rock On Ruby will be tough to pass.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.