Only six have stood their ground so far for this year’s Christmas Hurdle but that hasn’t dampened the appetite for what should be a Boxing Day thriller at Kempton.
There are plentiful plotlines running throughout the race, not least one generated by an absent star.
Dual-winner Faugheen will not be defending his crown but Willie Mullins still has a lively chance of claiming a Christmas Hurdle hat-trick with Vroum Vroum Mag.
However, it’s Alan King’s Yanworth who currently heads the market and he’s our starting point for this examination of the contest…
Will Yanworth display his Champion Hurdle credentials?
Trainer King has made no secret that this latest assignment will prove to him whether Yanworth has what it takes to beat the best over 2m at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The bookies are certainly showing a lot of confidence in the six-year-old with odds of 6/4 offered for him to take the spoils.
But having looked like a longer trip would be his ideal preference, how will he stand up against some seasoned minimum trip performers?
VVM has the va-va voom to win the big prize
Faugheen’s omission is a blow but Mullins and owner Rich Ricci know they have a more than able deputy in Vroum Vroum Mag.
She’s done little wrong in a stellar career thus far with her recent Hatton’s Grace Hurdle defeat to Apple’s Jade easy enough to forgive given the quality of her previous performances.
The victory she secured at the Punchestown Festival was particularly memorable and while the opposition here has to be respected there’s nothing in this race that Mullins need fear.
Don’t rule out the Christmas Hurdle regulars
2013 winner My Tent or Yours and Nigel Twiston Davies’ The New One have become renowned sparring partners over the years and both are capable of serving it up to the leading fancies.
TNO roared back into life to land the International Hurdle last time out and he’s been priced to once again finish ahead of his re-opposing rival.
Whether the popular eight-year-old can get near Yanworth and Vroum Vroum Mag is open to debate but he certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Price Rush Hurdle winner Ch’Tibello and 1000/1 shot Gray Wolf River make up the rest of the field.
You’ve got to be young, you’ve got to be quick?
Since 1979 there have only been two winners aged over seven years old with those honours going to Dato Star (1999) and Harchibald (2008).
That certainly backs up the claims of the leading pair. But in our opinion this year’s race may not be so cut and dried.
There seems to be a renewed sparkle about THE NEW ONE and we’re going to stick our necks on the line and tell you to back him.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing