O'Dwyer pins faith in Eustace's versatility

In racing, in politics, in so many other aspects of life, timing and momentum are everything and, a week before the tapes go up on the 76th Champion Hurdle, the swingometer is going with the reigning king. Hardy Eustace is now as short as 3-1 favourite and yesterday his rider, Conor O'Dwyer, added his own positive thoughts to trainer Dessie Hughes's quiet confidence.

In racing, in politics, in so many other aspects of life, timing and momentum are everything and, a week before the tapes go up on the 76th Champion Hurdle, the swingometer is going with the reigning king. Hardy Eustace is now as short as 3-1 favourite and yesterday his rider, Conor O'Dwyer, added his own positive thoughts to trainer Dessie Hughes's quiet confidence.

Twelve months ago, Hardy Eustace led from start to finish and O'Dwyer would be perfectly happy to take the race to his rivals again. But on the other hand, such is his mount's versatility, amenability and professionalism, he would be equally content to let someone else do the hard work. "If there's a strong pace, we can sit in," he said. "If, like last year, there is no pace, we can go on. It is such a huge asset to have, that you are not kept to riding the one way. To be able to go to the start, knowing that you can wait to see where the pace is going to be, is great."

Hardy Eustace completed his preparation for the title defence with a rigorous racecourse spin with stablemate Central House, a Champion Chase candidate, at Leopardstown on Sunday, a piece of work which put smiles on the faces of all at Osborne House. "We were very pleased with him indeed," added O'Dwyer. "We gave him a nice squeeze up over the last few furlongs. The ground was very testing and Central House is not a bad work horse."

The first seven in the Champion Hurdle market are still Irish-trained horses, but it has been all change at the top over the past 24 hours as one-time favourite Harchibald continued to drift yesterday following his mystifying flop in his racecourse workout. Back In Front, trained by Edward O'Grady, is the one challenging Hardy Eustace, who will be trying to become the 13th more-than-once winner of the crown and is described by Ladbrokes as their worst loser of the meeting, at the top of the pile.

Harchibald, 3-1 before the weekend, is out to as much as 5-1, is still an intended competitor. His trainer, Noel Meade, said yesterday: "He was led out for a pick of grass this morning and he's that well we could hardly hold him. He's had some tests and unless anything really wrong shows up, he will run."

Macs Joy, vying for fourth favouritism alongside Brave Inca and Essex, completed his last serious fast work yesterday morning on the Curragh, with Barry Geraghty in the saddle. "He's very well, went 10 furlongs up the grass and Barry was happy," said his trainer, Jessica Harrington. "The big race looks extremely competitive and I think it will come down to whoever gets the run of it and makes the least mistakes, because the horses seem so close together." They certainly were the last time Macs Joy ran; he beat Back In Front and Hardy Eustace by a short-head and a head at Leopardstown in January.

Harrington's proven star, Moscow Flyer, will have his final practice jumps before the Queen Mother Champion Chase this morning at home in Moone, followed by a leg-stretcher at the Curragh tomorrow. "He might need another before he goes over to Cheltenham on Sunday," said Harrington, "but we'll see. He's finished all his serious work. He seems as well as ever, in great form and a bit more mature this year."

Moscow Flyer, winner of the two-mile crown two years ago, will be trying to emulate Royal Relief (1972 and 1974) as one to regain the title. Last year's hero Azertyuiop, and Arkle Trophy winner Well Chief are his two market rivals. "I have the utmost respect for them both," added Harrington.

Another name was added to the mix yesterday, when Mark Rimell revealed that his progressive Oneway, winner of his last five races, is to take on the cracks in the big one tomorrow week, rather than the handicap option of the Grand Annual two days later. Graham Lee, expected to return to action on Thursday after breaking a collarbone, will be in the saddle.

Rimell, who both owns and trains Oneway, admitted the decision had been not only tough, but loaded with egg-on-the-face potential. "To meet the big three at level weights when he should be getting two stone from them would appear stupid," he said. "But the horse is very well and his confidence is at an all-time high. I might not own him next year and I might not have the opportunity ever to run another horse in the race again. But I will declare him for both races, in case something stops him running in the first one, like the horsebox breaking down."

The last time the Rimell name, one firmly woven into Festival history, appeared on a roll of honour was in 1989, when Mark's sister Katie rode Three Counties, trained by grandmother Mercy, to victory in the Foxhunters'. Grandfather Fred, stands joint-fifth on the all-time list at the meeting with 25 winners, one of them being the worst-ever winner of the Champion Chase, Another Dolly, who took the 1980 running only on the disqualification of Chinrullah.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Red Society

(Exeter 4.55)

NB: Headliner

(Exeter 3.25)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor