Racing: Allegro can call the tune

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THE Champion Hurdle market has been striding along wearing a look of smug self-confidence for several weeks, with Mighty Mogul and Halkopous sitting cosily at the top and last season's finest marooned at long odds. Mighty Mogul fell by the wayside yesterday, and the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown this afternoon has considerable potential for another upset, writes Greg Wood.

Halkopous has appeared a shaky Cheltenham candidate for for some time, and today's race can prove it. His reputation is founded on the Bula Hurdle, in which he stole several lengths which some out-of-form opponents could not retrieve, but that trick rarely works twice and the smart money will be elsewhere.

Vintage Crop has raced over hurdles just twice, most recently in December 1991, but impressed sufficiently when winning the Cesarewitch last October to enter the Champion betting. This rather assumes that the timber is just there for adornment, though, and Flat speed will not make up for an L-plater's jumping in a field this good. Expect Novello Allegro to beat them all.

Stately Lover (2.15) is running out of chances, but deserves one final throw at Plumpton tomorrow. Ambleside Harvest (3.00) can beat a big field at Nottingham the following day, and High Alltitude (1.30) has a good chance at Leicester on Wednesday.

Jinxy Jack put himself into the Champion Hurdle picture when beating Coulton at Haydock last weekend, and will surely win the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on Friday with some ease.

Fickle weather conditions have muddied running plans for Saturday's good card at Sandown. The ground is unlikely to be too fast for Grace Card, though, in the Jackpot Hurdle.