Stan James Champion Hurdle 2013 Runners and Riders
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W P Mullins
Rock On Ruby
B J Geraghty
Cinders And Ashes
Stan James Champion Hurdle 2013 Main Contenders
Hurricane Fly: The 2011 Champion Hurdler disappointed in 2012 when sent off favourite to retain his crown. He finished a well beaten third behind Rock On Ruby and Overturn, with opinions continuing to differ for the cause of the apparent underperformance. His trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh have argued that he just wasn’t at his best last term and is back to himself this season. Mullins said recently “He’s more the horse he was two years ago, Last year I was never really happy with him. He wasn’t doing well, we never got him to the same pitch we got him to the year before. This year, I feel, he’s back to that. However, he’s two years older from when he won the Champion hurdle but his homework suggests he’s up to the same rating as he was two years ago.’’ Others wonder whether the better ground was factor while some claim that he was simply beaten by a better (and still underrated) Champion Hurdle horse in Rock On Ruby. You can read more and add your own thoughts on our Hurricane Fly thread. He has been a popular selection at the preview nights to become the first horse since Comedy of Errors in 1975 to regain his Champion Hurdle crown.
Zarkandar: The 2011 Triumph Hurdle winner was another who disappointed in the 2012 Champion Hurdle after winning the Betfair Hurdle on his seasonal debut last term. Trainer Paul Nicholls attributes that to the development of a cough between the two races and provided this update at his Cheltenham Festival Media Day: "He has been totally different to how he was a year ago. He had just won the Betfair Hurdle and was coughing. He wasn't quite right and we really struggled with him. He had a tiny little scar fracture of a hind leg in the autumn so we could not run him then. We rushed him for the Betfair Hurdle which he won. Then he started coughing and was nowhere near himself when he ran in the Champion Hurdle last year when he finished fifth after running a bit flat. Then he fell at Aintree. Otherwise he has won every race he has run in. He was three from three as a juvenile and has won all three this season. He keeps on winning and is the right age now, six. He has done nothing wrong this season. He have 17lb and beat Prospect Wells first time, then went to The International and won, galloping up the hill at Cheltenham. He idled on Saturday but won nicely. He is never going to flashy - he could have done on Saturday with a quicker pace. He jumps nicely and loves the Cheltenham hill. I think there is not a lot between Hurricane Fly, Rock On Ruby, this lad and possibly Grandouet. He prefers the New Course at Cheltenham but the Champion Hurdle is over almost a furlong less on the Old Course which is sharper. I would like to see the ground on the slow side and a fast-run race. He has got a great chance. Ruby (Walsh) was always going to have to ride Hurricane Fly this season and Daryl (Jacob) has won plenty of races on him. Daryl was always going to ride him but it makes no difference who rides him. Zarkandar is a good form and we are very happy with him." We have been tracking the horse all season on our Zarkandar forum thread.
Rock on Ruby: The 2012 Champion Hurdler is 6-1 third favourite with Ladbrokes to retain his crown. He won his last outing at Doncaster but was defeated earlier in the season at Cheltenham by Zarkandar and Gradouet. Trainer Harry Fry was not disheartened by that defeat noting that his season was totally about getting him back to Cheltenham in March in peak condition. He released this update on his progress toward that goal on his StanJames blog ; “We managed to school Ruby on the grass yesterday for the first time since before he ran in the International in December. It's been so wet and obviously there was the snow and then it was frozen so it was great to get him out there and he was exceptional. He's really coming into himself now with over a fortnight to go and we're very pleased with him.” Harry Fry’s horses have been in excellent form generally since the turn of the year. Being a little contrary we might ask if they were peaking too soon? Let us know what you think on our Rock on Ruby thread.
Grandouet: Missed the 2012 Champion Hurdle through injury and has only had one run since when finishing second to Zarkandar (giving weight) in the International in December. He defeated Rock on Ruby that day but does seem a fragile animal and was subject to a recent injury scare. Trainer Nicky Henderson commented earlier this month "He's fine. It's been a frustrating week. I'd like to have run tomorrow but he gave himself a bang on Sunday night, He was fit last weekend and will still be exactly where he was this weekend. Corky's been swimming him every day, he hasn't gone backwards. He'll be back in fast work next week and hopefully nothing's changed. He won't have had a prep race but isn't a horse who needs a dramatic amount of work so that's not a worry." The market suggests that his injury woes are under control and he has shortened into a best price of 7/1 with Ladbrokes. If you have an opinion or news on Grandouet share it on the Grandouet thread.