The Champion Hurdle has already suffered more than its fair share of turmoil in the lead up to the Cheltenham Festival, with market leaders Faugheen and Arctic Fire being ruled out of the race in recent weeks because of injury.
This was good news for those trousering each-way tickets on some of the longer-priced entrants, whose odds contracted with no obvious superstar in the field.
The market has taken another turn since on the assumption that wonder mare Annie Power will firstly be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle and then still run in the race, as she also holds entries in the Mares’ Hurdle and World Hurdle.
Annie Power is the 13/8 favourite and 7lb weight allowance she will receive for being a female is a clear advantage. However, it remains to be seen as to whether she truly has the speed to put the rest of the runners to the sword over 2m.
From a ratings perspective it is she and My Tent Or Yours (5/1 and rated 168) that have a few lbs in hand on the other entrants, but Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old is hard to fancy seriously, having not run for the best part of a year.
Below these two, there is little to separate most of the remainder of the field from a ratings perspective.
The New One (7/1) is rated 161, Nichols Canyon (5/1) and Camping Ground (20/1) are both 160, Peace And Co (20/1) 159, Identity Thief (9/2) and Top Notch (16/1) are both rated 158 and then Hargam (16/1) and Old Guard (20/1) are rated 157.
Virtually all of these have sound each-way claims if things fall in their favour.
Peace And Co would easily be a quarter of his current price if not disappointing on two starts this season and recreating the form which saw him win the Triumph Hurdle last year.
Hargam needs genuinely fast ground to be at his best and conditions have been boggy for much of the season, while Camping Ground needs them to go quickly to ensure his better stamina comes to the fore.
On the flip side, a runner that would prefer a steadily-run race is Sempre Medici and he may be the best each-way bet of all at 25/1.
He was a single-length second to a more race-fit Old Guard on his opening run of the season and has won comfortably on two occasions since. It is highly plausible that he is open to further improvement, especially if not throwing in a customary bad jump.
Furthermore, if Annie Power does take a different engagement, which is more likely than many believe, not only will this cause the odds to shorten on virtually all of the remainder of the field, it will be an especially positive vibe for Sempre Medici, who has the same owner/trainer combination of Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins.
Sempre Medici has no other Festival alternative away from the Champion Hurdle and is worth backing each-way now before the six-day declaration stage.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.