Hurricane has the strength to storm up the hill

The one certainty about this afternoon's 81st Champion Hurdle is that there will be a new name on the roll of honour. The contest is one in which past winners commonly think they're hard enough to have another go; a record four did so as recently as two years ago, when Katchit, Sublimity, Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace were thwarted by Punjabi.

Today, though, the enforced absence of last year's winner Binocular means no defending or previous champion in the field for only the fourth time in 30 runnings.

You have to go back to For Auction 30 years ago to find a horse who won a Champion Hurdle on his debut on the course. Of today's field, Menorah, Peddlers Cross, Oscar Whisky and Dunguib are following the approved route of having won or run well in a novices' race at the meeting.

It is hardly the fault of Ireland's best, Hurricane Fly (3.20), though, that he has not yet faced the famous hill, having missed engagements at the last two Festivals because of different leg problems. Today the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old can make it first time lucky.

In the Grade One novice races Hidden Universe (1.30) could provide some value, as can the progressive Captain Chris (2.05). In the handicaps Sunnyhillboy (2.40) and Definity (5.15) are suggested.