Belfast Telegraph

New One has ability to prove staying power

Robert Fenton

The roof will come off on Cheltenham Festival's opening day if Hurricane Fly enters the pantheon of all-time great Champion Hurdle winners.

After 19 Grade 1 victories, including two Cheltenham crowns under his belt, many would argue the Ulster-owned 10-year-old should already be there.

However, he has never quite enjoyed the same reputation at the Festival as he has built up in Ireland, but now has a great chance to put that right in one of the most competitive renewals in years. And Willie Mullins, strong favourite to be top trainer, wants this race more than any other over the four days.

Yes, it would be great if the Hurricane blows them away but he has a frightening stat to overcome in that no 10-year-old has won since the great Sea Pigeon back in 1981.

If he equals that, then the Fly will deservedly take his place among the other fab four to wear hurdling's greatest crown three times.

He won't find it easy on better ground – he was beaten on that in 2012 – and in the face of quality of opposition, not least from The New One, expected to go off favourite.

He's only six and like the great Istabrag, comes into this race having won the Neptune Hurdle over 2m 5f the previous year, thereby demolishing any stamina doubts about getting up the demanding Cheltenham hill.

He also has the ability to quicken and the anticipated faster pace should help him in his jumping which has proved a frailty in the past, although he has only once been out of the first two in any race.

He was beaten by My Tent Or Yours in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle due to a bad mistake. But for that, he would have won and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is bullish about his chances.

The trainer likes a punt. Expect him to have a big 'One' this afternoon, so grab the 5/2 early doors, although those who took the 8/1 when advised a few months ago, can lay off and ensure a profit.

Belfast Telegraph


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