Gasps and groans were heard up and down the country when Binocular was withdrawn from the Champion Hurdle on Sunday, but even without the reigning Champion Hurdler, this race promises to be a thrilling renewal.
At 3/1, Hurricane Fly heads the betting market and the Irish challenge, but his lack of run around Cheltenham is a worry as 16 of the last 22 winners of the Champion Hurdle had won at Cheltenham before.
Both of Hurricane Fly’s rivals – Menorah (3/1) and Peddlers Cross (4/1) – have won around Cheltenham before and with others such as Oscar Whisky (8/1) and Dunguib (8/1) also impressing around Cheltenham, it’s a big negative against Hurricane Fly’s form.
The unbeaten Peddlers Cross is obviously a major contender and with Overturn sure to set a strong pace in the race, Peddlers Cross will relish the speed at which these two-milers will tackle the course.
But with concerns surrounding Peddlers Cross’ jumping, the pick of the market leaders is Menorah whose turn of foot in the International Hurdle was seriously impressive when beating Cue Card, and with the ground in his favour, it’s hard to see the Philip Hobbs-trained six-year-old getting beat.
17 of the last 20 winners started in the first six of the betting, and with Binocular not featuring, that now includes Khyber Kim at 12/1.
However for punters looking for an each-way bet, Dunguib and Oscar Whisky tick plenty of the boxes regarding trends and as the only Nicky Henderson runner left in the race, Oscar Whisky is very tempting at 8/1.
Fourth behind Menorah in the Supreme Novices’ last year, Oscar Whisky has won his last two starts – one at Cheltenham and one at Ffos Las – and with the ground in his favour he’s a big price.
Dunguib would relish a little cut in the ground and so any rain would be more than welcome, but with a proven Cheltenham record, Dunguib may be the pick of the Irish runners at 8/1.
A £20 stake on Menorah winning the Champion Hurdle would return £80. New customers can sign up here for a free Cheltenham bet worth up to £60.