Cheltenham Festival 2014: Hurricane ready to fly to a third Hurdle triumph

 

The field for this year’s Champion Hurdle may be small – the last time fewer of the two-mile elite faced the starter at Prestbury Park was when Night Nurse beat seven rivals in 1976 – but it is, by both  common consent and the  evidence of the form book, uniquely select.

The runners have won 33 top-level contests between them and, for the first time in this one, each has scored at least once at Grade 1 level or its equivalent before the present classification system was introduced 31 years ago.

After a record 14 winners at the Festival for the Irish last year, the first-day assault is once again led by their best performer over obstacles of recent years, one who has annexed more than twice as many Grade 1 prizes as today’s rivals put together.

Hurricane Fly (3.20) has a world record 19 wins to his credit and is going for his third Champion Hurdle, aiming to join a club that has only five other members.

This year will be his  toughest task to date though and not just because of the quality of the opposition, which is headed by three of last season’s outstanding  novices. The New One showed his affinity with the course and occasion as he powered home in the Neptune  Novices’ Hurdle over five  furlongs further than he has to gallop today, but has since proved equally adept over two miles and his stamina will serve him well up the demanding climb to the finish.

He is closely matched with My Tent Or Yours – in two meetings their score is one apiece – who lost little caste at last year’s Festival when he beat all bar Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices and has not been beaten in four runs since. Last year’s leading juvenile Our Conor has not won since his breathtaking romp in the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago, but has hardly been disgraced in chasing Hurricane Fly home, at decreasing margins, in his two senior runs.

With a small field, there is always the danger that the best jockey, rather than the best horse, emerges the winner, but the prospect of a tactical  contest has largely been removed by the addition of formerly top-class, and still no mug, Captain Cee Bee, as a pacemaker. The front-running 13-year-old will primarily do duty for his two fellow JP McManus colourbearers My Tent Or Yours and Jezki, but will suit everyone.

The one caveat against  Hurricane Fly is his age. Only two as old as 10 have won a Champion Hurdle, but he is younger than his years, having not had a strenuous youth over jumps. And the pair of  triumphant oldies, Hatton’s Grace and Sea Pigeon, were not so much golden as  diamond; each went on to take a third title as 11-year-olds.

The years will one day catch up with Hurricane Fly, but perhaps not yet, and it may be deemed foolhardy to desert a horse who rattles up top-level triumphs with metronomic consistency. Having seen off Ireland’s young pretenders, he can now do the same with  Britain’s elite and confirm his place on the pantheon at the expense of The New One and Our Conor.

The Irish have their usual formidable hand in the novice Grade 1 contests, and can take the opening hurdle, but with one of their longer-priced challengers, Gilgamboa (1.30), who is progressive and battle-hardened in handicaps. Champagne Fever is back for more as a chaser, but former hurdles champion Rock On Ruby (2.05) is just as at home here. Quevega (4.00) cannot be opposed in the mare’s  contest that she has won five times before and in the  handicaps Green Flag (2.40), Foxrock (4.40) and Baby Mix (5.15) are suggested at better odds of reward.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living