Hurricane Fly is the stand-out name on a list of 18 entries for the 2014 Champion Hurdle in March. The Willie Mullins trained ten-year-old looked back to his best over Christmas to win the Ryanair Hurdle and a third Champion Hurdle success at cheltenham is now very much in his sights,. There were just 18 entries for the race this year which was the lowest in recent memory which is a slight disappointment for one of the Championship races.
The low turn-out should not have an affect on the quality of the race itself though with the ante-post Champion Hurdle betting among the most competitive of the season. Hurricane Fly stamped his authority over the Irish challengers at Leopardstown over Christmas but many believe that the English contingent could well give the current hero a massive challenge. The home team will be represented chiefly by The New One and My Tent Or Yours who both appear on the entries after their ding dong battle in the Christmas Hurdle.
It was My Tent Or Yours who triumphed by a small margin that day but The New One does have the Cheltenham form having won the Neptune at the Festival last season. Nicky Henderson has reported that My Tent Or Yours is in great form at after his Christmas Hurdle success at Kempton and he is now likely to go straight to the Festival with a good chance.
Hurricane Fly dispatched both Jezki and Our Conor in great style in the Ryanair Hurdle but both opponents are also in the Champion Hurdle field at this stage. Jezki was hampered that day over Christmas and could have a little bit more to give, while Our Conor will be returning to the scene of his brilliant Triumph Hurdle success from 2013, if he arrives at Prestbury Park this season.
Other notable Champion Hurdle entries at this stage include the unbeaten mare Annie Power, who also has the option of the World Hurdle if connections want to avoid a clash with stable-mate, Hurricane Fly. Speculation is rife about just how good Annie Power is with jockey Ruby Walsh waxing lyrical about her so far this season following a number of impressive displays.
The most notable absentee is Zarkandar who has finished fourth and fifth in the Champion Hurdle for the past couple of years. The Paul Nicholls horse has been brushed aside twice by Annie Power this season and the World Hurdle now looks like the clear aim for the former Triumph Hurdle winner. Nicholls does have the progressive Ptit Zig in the field though but he will need to find plenty of improvement to mix it in this sort of company.