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If Hurricane Fly does what many people are predicting then he would become first horse since Hardy Eustace to successfully defend a Champion Hurdle title.
Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old was a deserving winner of the race last year beating the game Peddlers Cross by a length and a quarter and it could be argued that this year’s renewal is actually a weaker contest.
The challengers are headed by Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdler of 2010 Binocular, who has put his best foot forward this season after having a season to forget in 2011.
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No horse has ever regained the Champion Hurdle though after relinquishing the crown, but the Henderson horse is a bit of enigma and can produced the unexpected against the odds, so rule him out at your peril.
Binocular landed the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton earlier in the season but of the last 21 winners of that race only one, Kribensis, has done the Christmas Hurdle-Champion Hurdle double. Meaning 20 horses have been beaten in the Champion after winning the Kempton hurdling showpiece.
The horse he beat at Kempton, Rock On Ruby, also holds an entry in the race but the trends are little more promising for his followers.
The seven-year-old finished second in the Neptune last season, which has proven a fruitful guide to the following seasons Champion Hurdle, and comes into the race as the highest placed finisher as winner First Lieutenant has gone chasing. In the last five years the highest placed finisher in the Neptune has a record of 11233 in the next year’s Champion Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls runs both him and five-year-old Zarkandar but the stats are heavily against the youngster as only one five-year-old has won the race from the last 87 horses to try.
Of the outsiders, Overturn has been turning heads of many each-way value seekers, but his absence since Christmas could count against him as the last 17 winners of the Champion have had a run in that same calendar year.