The Irish Champion Hurdle takes place at Leopardstown on Sunday and it should offer punters plenty of Festival clues. All eye swill be on Hurricane Fly as he bids to win the race for the third time before going to Cheltenham in March as one of the favourites for the Champion Hurdle itself. We all remember Hurricane Fly winning the Champion Hurdle in such style back in 2011 and it would be a remarkable achievement if he were to regain that crown in 2013. So far this season it has been business as usual for Hurricane Fly as he has won both his starts in convincing fashion to confirm his reputation as the best hurdler in Ireland by some distance. Last time out we saw The Fly storm away to win the Istabraq Hurdle over Christmas and he will start the Irish champion Hurdle as an odds on favourite to rack up yet another grade 1 success. He will face a different test this weekend though with his old foe from across the water, Binocular, set to take his chance in the race for trainer Nicky Henderson.
Binocular was the brilliant winner of the Champion Hurdle back in 2010 and although he has not been able to regain his best form since, he remains a top class yard stick at this level. This will be the first time we have seen Binocular since he finished fifth in the Champion Hurdle last season though and he is sure to improve for the run having been a little bit behind with his work according to connections. It will be fascinating to see the pair of them clash once again this weekend with Hurricane Fly expected to be too strong for his British opponent having already had the two runs so far this winter. Other potential contenders for the Irish Champion Hurdle this weekend include Thousand Stars and Captain Cee Bee who have both been lambs to the slaughter for Hurricane Fly over the past two or three years. An impressive win for Hurricane Fly will see his price for Cheltenham trimmed even further while the connections of Binocular will be hoping he can show some signs of his best with this likely to be his first and last run before he heads to the Festival. Time is starting to run out now for the Champion Hurdle horses to have a run before the Festival which makes a race like this one to savour as we build up to one of the most exciting renewals of the race in recent memory.