The 2014 Cheltenham Festival’s first championship race is shaping up to be a cracker, with nine runners declared for a tilt at the title over small obstacles, but Ladbrokes’ market for this renewal suggests there’s only four animals worth being on.
Two-time winner and defending champion Hurricane Fly shares favouritism for crack Cheltenham trainer Willie Mullins at 5/2, alongside Nigel Twiston-Davies’ lauded six-year-old The New One, who took the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle by four lengths last season.
Our Conor comes next in the betting at 10/3 for Dessie Hughes, who won this race once as a jockey on Monksfield and twice as a trainer with the redoubtable Hardy Eustace, while Nicky Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours is holding on to 4/1 fourth-favouritism despite an injury scare.
It’s 10/1 the field bar those four leading lights and with Ladbrokes going money back on losing selections if ‘The Fly’ comes first or second in the race, a bet on Hughes’ improving five-year-old becoming the youngest horse to win this race since Katchit in 2008 looks the way to play.
Our Conor romped to a 15l win in the first event on Cheltenham Festival 2013’s final day, and while last year’s Triumph was hardly a vintage renewal, the Gerrardstown House Stud gelding has clearly kicked-on considerably this term.
A run on the flat at Naas on his seasonal reappearance under new pilot Danny Mullins saw Our Conor claim a respectable fourth and was followed up by a fine third behind Hurricane Fly and Jessica Harrington’s Jezki in his first run in such exalted company over Christmas.
Hughes’ inmate reversed form with Harrington’s six-year-old – who’s 10/1 for what would now be a shock Champion Hurdle win – when getting to within one and a half lengths of Hurricane Fly in Leopardstown’s Irish Champion Hurdle a month later.
With the Gloucestershire track drying up ahead of the festival, and conditions expected to be similar to the good to soft ground Hughes’ charge hacked up over last year, get on Our Conor to find the extra level and make it a 4,3,2,1 sequence for the season with a win at Prestbury Park.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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