Mea Culpa first . . . Hurricane Fly is a much better horse than I thought. He did that in style from a tough position. Since Zarkandar’s Triumph victory I’ve always thought the Nicholls horse was top-notch but he was put in his place today and that seems to be as good as he is I’m afraid. He won’t turn the form around next year, nor will any of the others.
So where does that leave the 2014 market for the Champion Hurdle? Judged on today, My Tent or Yours finds little for pressure up the hill. Champagne Fever looked smart under a masterful ride and I suppose he could have a tilt at next year’s Champion, but perhaps going up in trip will be the best option for him.
I didn’t take much notice of The New One last year, but he really caught my eye when winning at Cheltenham this season and I backed him for The Supreme. After his Warwick stroll I had a few quid on for The Neptune but had a couple more small bets for The Supreme at big prices as he has so much speed (I still believe it would have been the better option).
I had a decent bet on him at Cheltenham where he was outstayed by At Fishers Cross after using his impressive turn of foot too early. His jockey admitted he’d gone too soon and was unduly hard on himself in hindsight.
Anyway, he runs against the meeting’s hotpot – Pont Alexandre – tomorrow in The Neptune, a race which has been won by some top-notchers (and by Willie Wumpkins).
I’d been confident about TNO until the bug got into his yard and knocked out Imperial Commander and two others. That’s my main concern tomorrow. TNO has scoped clean and has been working well, but sometimes a bug will only show under race-conditions when a horse is working at his maximum. We’ll have to wait and see.
This is the highest quality Neptune field I can remember. If The New One wins, I suspect he’ll be single figures for the 2014 Champion Hurdle. He can be backed now with Hills and with Geoff Banks at 25/1 and the bug risk + the Mullins risk with his Pont Alex doesn’t add up to 25s in my book; I think TNO is excellent value and worth betting a year in advance.
His Cheltenham form is very good – beaten 6 lengths by Champagne Fever in the Bumper last year, he’d won on his Cheltenham debut and won again there this season. At Aintree last April he beat my Tent or Yours in the bumper, showing once again that he has speed as well as stamina.
I wouldn’t have a huge bet, but at 25s he’s well worth an interest.
Champion Hurdle sponsors, Stan James, have quoted today’s Arkle winner Simonsig at 16s for the 2014 Champion Hurdle (only because I asked, they are not trying to reel in mugs – except me, perhaps)
As I mentioned last night, Simonsig was nowhere near as good a jumper as many pundits said he was. He did what I feared he would with these stiffer fences – left his back end in too many of them.
I suspect he simply hasn’t the knack for fences or, like Long Run, has some form of stiffness which prevents full flexibility. Long Run tends only to show this under pressure.
Connections might persevere, but why would you when Sprinter Sacre is in the yard? Another impression Simonsig left today is that he’s a two-miler, pure and simple: quotes for the Gold Cup were laughable. The horse is all speed and confirmed, by winning despite those mistakes, that he has some engine.
I’m willing to risk a small bet at 16s that he’ll revert to hurdling.
So, there you go, my longest-range ever ante-post tips, The New One and Simonsig for the 2014 Stan James Champion Hurdle.