THE weather is awful and the picture is decidedly foggy surrounding the Champion Hurdle. Looking for ante-post value has been made more difficult by the interrupted preparations of so many of the main contenders. But with the last four winners among the 34 entered, it could be the toughest race to win at the Cheltenham Festival.
Hurricane Fly, Darlan, Zarkandar, Rock On Ruby and Grandouet are outstanding hurdlers. Hurricane Fly has looked back to something near his best but last year’s below-par performance in the race poses too many doubts. In addition, he is no value at 7/2. Grandouet oozes class but hasn’t done it yet on the biggest stage, while Darlan lacks experience (although he obviously has the ability). Rock On Ruby ran a solid race at Cheltenham in December and looks cast-iron each-way value at 10/1.
But of the leading protagonists Zarkandar is the one to side with. His win at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle in November was a tremendous weight-carrying performance and he beat Rock On Ruby and Grandouet by doing it the hard way from the front in the StanJames.com International Hurdle. The 7/1 with the sponsors might be as good as you get.
Outside the leading five, it will take a mighty performance to finish in the first six, never mind the top three. But there is each-way value. Alan King has three entries and Raya Star is probably the most improved hurdler in training. His ante post price of 40/1 with StanJames.com looks far too big and is generous each-way value. Grumeti hasn’t raced yet but again 25/1 is decent value. The question is whther he can find the necessary improvement to figure at the business end.
Raya Star: each-way
For the latest StanJames.com Champion Hurdle odds please click here
*Prices correct at the time of writing. Please note that odds can change.
Who do you think is the ante-post value in the Champion Hurdle?