With Cleeve Hill forming the perfect backdrop, the three previous winners of the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle line up yet again in a bid to defend or reclaim their trophy – but it won’t be easy pickings for the trio.
Hurricane Fly, winner of the 2011 renewal, comes into the race as Ireland’s great hope. Undefeated this season, albeit fortunate in an early season trial race where his main rival Go Native fell at the final flight, Hurricane Fly looks back to his best and goes into the race with a favourites chance of winning.
Back to defend his crown, Rock On Ruby, winner of the 2012 renewal, has had his preparation timed to perfection by trainer Harry Fry, with the trainer under no illusions that the gelding will be at his best for the March race.
Winner of the 2010 race, Binocular was last seen comfortably defeated by Hurricane Fly in Ireland. However, trainer Nicky Henderson is clear in his opinion that he feels there is very little between the duo. Third and fourth in last year’s race, Henderson’s opinion would not be far from the truth, but can Binocular turn around that Irish defeat?
Zarkandar, Grandouet, Countrywide Flame and Cinders and Ashes all form part of an intriguing list of challengers looking to dethrone the champions. Paul Nicholls, trainer of Zarkandar, is clear that the French bred gelding was far from his best last year.
This may just be Zarkandar’s season, and he comes into the race undefeated for the season. The latest 2013 Cheltenham odds show him as a favorite.