Hurricane Fly does remain the one to beat in the Champion Hurdle, but of all the shorter-priced ante-post favourites at the Cheltenham Festival, he looks the one to take on at 5/4.
The nine-year-old may have won all four of his Grade One starts since he was a beaten odds-on Festival favourite last year and was especially impressive in each of his last two.
However, only once in history as a horse regained a Champion Hurdle crown having lost it and this was Comedy Of Errors in 1975.
Furthermore, there have only been three Champion Hurdle winners since 1951 who have been aged eight or older.
Then there is the competition, with this renewal of the Champion Hurdle looking tougher than the one that Hurricane Fly finished third in last year, even if various reasons have done the rounds as to why he performed below par.
Rock On Ruby returns as the defending champion and he has won six of his 10 races over a distance of around 2m, in comparison to a 0-4 record over greater distances.
His form in bigger fields is also significant, with six victories in nine starts in races that have had 10 or more runners.
These two observations, along with the fact that he looks on course to peak at Cheltenham this year, make him worthy opposition at 6/1.
Surely, connections will be keen to adopt a similar raceplan to last year when they went out hard and didn’t allow Hurricane Fly the slow opening stages that he has become accustomed to in Ireland.
Meanwhile, at 5/1, Zarkandar can be expected to run better than when a staying-on fifth last year.
He suffered setbacks before this race and it should be remembered that he was only a five-year-old then.
Now a year older and enjoying an almost perfect preparation, he can be expected to lay it down to Hurricane Fly too.
The final factor that may impact Hurricane Fly is the ground as although he is no slouch in the speed department, a softer surface with a greater emphasis on stamina would play more to his strengths.
If the ground is on the firmer side, Grandouet could be the one to beat assuming he is none the worse for some injury problems in the last 18 months and he appeals at 8/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.