Injuries to Faugheen and Arctic Fire and the retirement of dual-winner Hurricane Fly means none of the placed horses in last year’s Champion Hurdle will re-compete.
In fact, the only likely runner from last year’s race is The New One, whose trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has been in bullish mood in recent weeks about his horse’s chances of Championship success at the third attempt.
Very unlucky two seasons ago when halted by the fatal fall of Our Connor and clearly not right after a difficult prep last year, it’s not hard to agree with his claims.
Twiston-Davies reports a perfect prep this time and reveals the horse was lame and being worked in a swimming pool before last season’s renewal.
I can’t help but think The New One of two years ago would probably be contesting favouritism this time, so if he is indeed as good as ever, perhaps the 7/1 about is good value.
The New One still sets the standard for the home team, having beaten Old Guard and Hargam at Kempton when giving them lumps of weight, and his hard-fought win over Rayvin Black in a bog at Haydock has been franked since.
But is the home team good enough?
The flag of Nichols Canyon, disappointing at last year’s Festival, was significantly lowered in Faugheen’s Irish Champion Hurdle romp.
That raises concern about 9/4-shot Identity Thief‘s chances, as though he might be the progressive, young Irish hope, he has ground to make up on Nichols Canyon from a Christmas encounter and only beat Top Notch a neck in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.
Top Notch is a revised 20/1 shot – if you get my drift – so it might be time to dispel the idea that the remaining Irish hurdlers are a cut above.
Willie Mullins’s Annie Power is a worthy substitute for her stable-mates and deserves to be favourite with her 7lb claim, but she’s far easier to oppose than Faugheen and the each-way market is alive with British-trained chances.
I can’t make a case for Old Guard or Hargam even if it quickens up, as whatever course form or a liking for good ground they have, the The New One probably has more.
Of all the Festival races, I think the going has the least affect on the Champion Hurdle as the winner will always need a lot of speed and stamina.
Many believe CAMPING GROUND will need it to stay soft to have any chance, but even if it quickens up I think he looks an outstanding bet at 25/1.
This opinion would almost solely be down to the strength of his Relkeel Hurdle romp, and I see no negatives in him subsequently having his stamina exposed over three miles against Thistlecrack next time out – he’s not a stayer.
We can view the Relkeel two ways: he either outstayed Cole Harden, Lil Rockefeller, Top Notch, Bobs Worth and Whisper over a muddy two-and-a-half miles, or he simply outpaced them.
In hindsight it’s obvious, given those behind were proven, Grade-1-winning stayers and it was Lil Rockefeller who chased him home.
Lil Rockefeller was a very good winner in a competitive two-mile-three Grade 2 at Fontwell this month – his best trip – so the form is working out.
Surprising, then, that bookmakers have left Camping Ground at 25/1 after that success, even with the non-runner-no-bet concession.
They must want to keep him on-side with the ground drying up, but trainer Robert Walford won’t run him if he deems it to be too quick, so with the certainty of a refund in that scenario, what’s there not to like?
If he is confirmed, I think that price will come in – which makes no sense given the concession – so I think now’s a good time for a bet.
He might not be good enough on the day, but that’s more than compensated for in his 25/1 price and, with stamina assured, he’s going to be very hard to pass if allowed to tank along in front, which sounds like ideal conditions for an each-way bet.
0.5pt each-way Camping Ground @25/1 NRNB (various), Champion HurdleLeave a comment