The early November meeting at Down Royal is always one of the early season highlights of the National Hunt winter and that is certainly the case this weekend. The two-day fixture is dominated by the JNWine Champion Chase on Saturday but there is plenty to look forward to on Friday afternoon, with the WKD Hurdle taking centre stage. That race will see Champion Hurdle fancy, Jezki, make his seasonal bow with connections already plotting out his path to the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Jezki only met with defeat once last season and that came at the Festival when he was a close up third in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. That day he lost little in defeat to Champagne Fever who was given a fine front running ride by Ruby Walsh. That was proven when Jezki turned the tables to win at the Punchestown Festival in April and all roads now lead to the Champion Hurdle for the JP McManus five-year-old.
Trainer Jessica Harrington has said that Jezki is in good order while AP McCoy will be onboard the horse as he continues his quest for 4000 winners. Champion jockey, McCoy, will potentially have his pick of Jezki and My Tent Or Yours in the Champion Hurdle division this season with both expectd to launch a major assault on the race. At the moment, Jezki is a best price of 10/1 for the Champion Hurdle while My Tent Or Yours is as short as 5/1 in places, which does indicate the pecking order at the moment.
Jezki will however have the first chance to impress on Friday afternoon at Down Royal and most punters will expect him to produce a strong performance. He will have to take on Fred Winter Hurdle winner Flaxen Flare in the process, as well as having a penalty to carry, but the feeling is that Jezki is still an improving type who could still be anything.
A win for Jezki on Friday afternoon would only serve to boost the Champion Hurdle division even further. The New One has already impressed for Nigel Twiston-Davies, while Hurricane Fly and Or Conor could yet still join Jezki and My Tent Or Yours in a potentially classic Champion Hurdle in March.