THE entries for the Champion Hurdle, Stayers’ and Mares’ Hurdles were revealed this week and typically generated a flurry of pundits and podcasts best bets thrown out from all directions.
Constitution Hill looks home and hosed – even 1/3 is a fair price - based on his dominant wins and the likelihood of Honeysuckle not being as good as she has been in previous years.
Throw in a very competitive Mares’ Hurdle with all its leading contenders showing they are at the top of their game. It’s a good betting race, while the motley crew entered in the Stayers’ looks the most likely to throw up a shock.
For all the hours of punditry and form analysis, remember the BBC weatherman who added a 25/1 Many Clouds to 33/1 Thunder And Roses for a healthy profit one week back in April 2015.
With the Champion Hurdle a one-horse race, how about a Grade 1 hurdle treble on the Hill, the Rock and a famous river to bring it ‘Home’ with the Lee?
Constitution Hill looks as solid as a Rock, pardon the pun. The only thing that appears likely to halt his road to glory would be if he was too fresh on the big occasion and, as he is a bold jumper, he stood too far off a hurdle. It can happen the best. For a championship race with experienced horses, we can look to departures of Valirimix, Our Conor and Buveur d’Air to see that shocks do occur. The favourite will only have had five races on track before his biggest day. But the closest any has got to him is 12 lengths at the finish.
Where is the each-way value? The two Mullins horses may still have improvement. State Man won his two Grade 1s this season but the after-race interview by Willie Mullins in Leopardstown was very positive in expecting a lot more from the runner-up Vauban.
You might as well run Bob Olinger in here. He travels well on the bridle albeit he has not run over the minimum distance since his hurdling debut where he was beaten by Ferny Hollow. But there’s nowhere else for him to go – ridden quietly to get home, might he pinch a place?
The other horse at too big odds at the moment is probably Pied Piper. His one bad run last time was out of line with his form. Gordon Elliott saddled the five-year-old Zanahiyr into third at 28/1 last year. He’s worth a shot at 66s or 25s without the favourite in a field that could cut up badly.
You simply can’t back Honeysuckle until you see how she performs at the Dublin Racing Festival and if she run in the Champion Hurdle.
The Stayers’ is a bit of crazy race to put into perspective. The final field is uncertain and many will be much shorter on the day but you are lobbing into the unknown with many.
It’s a mixture of ould lads that you still can’t rule out – Paisley Park, Sire Du Berlais. Chasers who are a bit targetless over the larger obstacles, such as Chacun Pour Soi. Failed chasers – Goshen, Asterion Forlonge, (but missing the obvious one in Ahoy Senor), some returning from injury – Monkfish - and younger lads that might not turn up – Blazing Khal, Zanahiyr. Throw in Sharjah and Buzz who could be a joker in the pack. Teahupoo might be too classy to end up in this race at his age.
Paisley Park has looked as good as ever this season and on his two runs and course form, it’s hard not to see him in the first three - at 12s he looks big, perhaps only his age creating the negatives.
Home By The Lee certainly looks an improved horse this season on his two victories and 6/1 looks a fair assessment.
Some shrewdies were promoting Ashdale Bob at 12s. He’s consistent but he doesn’t win often. Many stick by Blazing Khal but he hasn’t run often. The murmurings from Charles Byrnes were not great this week and he would be very much going in the deep end after just three novice runs.
Bit of a conundrum revolving around whether you think Danny Mullins can do a master class from the front for a three in a row on Flooring Porter when everyone is alive to the tactics. It’s only three years on from Lisnagar Oscar’s 50/1 shock and it could well have that race profile again. Penhill was 12s in 2018, Nichols Canyon 10s the year before and Cole Harden (2015) 14s. If you want to take on Flooring Porter, there are a lot of options in a tricky looking race.
The Mares’ Hurdle is likely to gain former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante. With last year’s winner Marie’s Rock, who won well against males in the Relkeel, and Love Envoi getting better all the time – there is a strong British team in a race so long dominated by Irish-trained mares.
The news that the Mullins-trained Brandy Love is to go straight to the Festival throws a bit of a spanner in as she looked quirky last year and a big occasion like a post Champion Hurdle atmosphere at the Festival might exacerbate this, even if going left-handed is more suitable.
You would like to have seen her have a run but she beat Love Envoi fair and square at Fairyhouse although she had an easier campaign into that race. She is taking on a level higher here and has her quirks going into such a strong field at 4/1. Mullins’ other entry Echoes In Rain was running well in the Hatton’s Grace when she fell and has looked to be in better form last season on the flat.
I was tempted by Telmesomethinggirl at 16s at the weekend. She surely cannot go to the Festival over fences on her Naas display. She has Cheltenham form, was just coming unto contention when brought down last year when she had gone off at 4/1. Now 14/1s, it surely looks the race for her if Honeysuckle is not diverted here, as now seems unlikely.
In the betting book
Pied Piper – 66/1 E/W Champion Hurdle
Telmesomethinggirl – 14/1 E/W Mares’ Hurdle
Paisley Park – 12/1 E/W Stayers’ Hurdle