Hurricane Fly is the heavy favourite in the Cheltenham odds at 4/6 to win the Champion Hurdle, but his chances of triumphing in the race for the second year in succession have be handed a massive boost by the news that leading rival Binocular will head to the Festival without a final preparation run.
It is 17 years since a horse last won the Champion Hurdle without having enjoyed a previous run in the same calendar year, but this is a statistic that Binocular will have to overcome to regain his crown.
Binocular is one of a number of horses to be negatively impacted by the recent cold snap, which has impacted his opportunities to race.
The 2010 Champion Hurdle winner was last seen winning the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day, when jockey Tony McCoy hinted that he was not the horse of old when repelling the challenge of Rock On Ruby by a neck.
Another run before Cheltenham would have helped in Binocular’s fine tuning, but the calling off of a recent meeting at Sandown was a major blow and now it does not seem possible to find another suitable race before next month’s Festival.
There is the chance to run at Wincanton on February 18th, but Henderson is reluctant to run Binocular against stablemate Grandouet and so a direct route to Cheltenham now beckons.
If at his best Binocular could prove a major threat to Hurricane Fly and punters prepared to take a bit of a chance can back up at a decent each-way price of 11/2 in the Champion Hurdle odds.
Also in Binocualr’s favour is that only one of the last 13 horses to attempt to successfully defend a Champion Hurdle crown have been successful, while favourites have won just three of the last ten renewals.