Hurricane Fly to hold on to his Stan James Champion Hurlde crown in intriguing feature

And Willie Mullins can also land opener with Wicklow Brave, who can beat stable companion Vautour

Paul Townend and Wicklow Brave on the gallops at Cheltenham yesterday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Paul Townend and Wicklow Brave on the gallops at Cheltenham yesterday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho


It’s a case of while the King is alive, long live the King, and I think Hurricane Fly will win the Champion Hurdle for a third time. I don’t believe it’s a vintage Champion Hurdle. I think it’s competitive, with the novices coming along, but it’s not like there’s another former Champion Hurdle winner in there.

There doesn’t look to be a jump between The New One and My Tent Or Yours and I think both of those will be snapping at Hurricane Fly’s heels. The change in ground means Jezki comes into it too and he will have a hood on for the first time too which could help him.

It may be that this race will start off a new order, but until the old order is dethroned I have to stay with Hurricane Fly.

Wicklow Brave is the one I’d like to be on in the first race. There doesn’t appear to be a lot between him and his stable companion, Vautour, and I think Wicklow Brave represents a touch of value. There are a couple of form lines between the two Willie Mullins horses – through Western Boy – and there isn’t a massive lot of difference.

Vautour probably won his maiden hurdle easier but Wicklow Boy won his bumper easily. His vulnerability is his jumping, having run just twice over hurdles, but I was very impressed with how he won at Punchestown.

And the big thing today is likely to be the ground and how different it will be to what they’ve been running on all winter. Wicklow Brave has good form on good ground. It’s not as certain about Vautour on the going.

In the last race, the novice handicap chase, I’m going for Pendra. This horsre is a bit like the fairytale girl who had a little curl, Goldilocks, in that when he’s good, he’s very good, and when he’s bad, he’s horrid. Some of his runs are excellent. He was runner-up to Melodic Rendezvous in a Grade One hurdle last season. But he does have the habit of throwing in a stinker every now and again too.

If he’s on a good day today then he’s got the ability to win a race like this off this handicap mark.