Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Cheltenham: Ulster Hurricane faces tough New challenge

The most eagerly awaited Cheltenham Festival race is Tuesday's cracking Champion Hurdle which, according to the Europa Hotel Cheltenham Preview panel, is wide open and hence 3/1 the field.

Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly, bidding to join the privileged few in landing back-to-back titles, is one of two that trainer Willie Mullins wants to win more than any other from his strong contingent, the second being Quevega, the odds-on favourite for a fifth successive Mares Hurdle.

The Fly is now 10 years old and the last to win the Champion at that age was the great Sea Pigeon in 1980 – who then followed up the next year! A rarity and not something the Hurricane will be trying as this will be his Cheltenham swansong.

"Both will be putting their stamp on their careers for different reasons," said Mullins.

"I'll be disappointed for either if they don't do it. I know neither of them might win. But I'd love to see both winning for their fans and their own piece of history.

"They both deserve it. They have stamina, longevity and enough class to get that little extra," said Mullins.

Racing pundit Mark 'The Couch' Winstanley is very sweet on My Tent Or Yours, which will be ridden by Ulster great Tony McCoy.

But he must be worried about the latest minor setback to the Henderson horse.

"Hurricane has won it twice due to stamina and is the one to beat," said pundit Richard Hoiles at the Europa.

Trainer Gordon Elliott, too, is a Fly fan.

Jockey Robbie Power actually believes Down Royal Festival winner Jezki can do it for Jessica Harrington.

From a bookies' point of view, most of the money has come for Dessie Hughes' Our Conor who looked like beating Hurricane in the Irish Champion Hurdle going to the last only to find the Fly too tough in the run-in.

For me, though, there will be a new kid on the block in the form of The New One.

Best accumulator on offer from McLean's. Place quad at 15/2 on The New One (Tuesday), Faugheen (Wednesday), Big Buck's (Thursday) and Kings Palace (Friday).

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