Celestial Halo to go one better this time

I was going to keep my powder dry but following Ladbrokes cut from 14/1 to 12/1 today about Celestial Halo for the 2010 Champion Hurdle, Victor Chandler is now the sole bookmaker offering 14/1 so I’m going to grab the price.

Regular readers will know that Celestial Halo is a favourite of mine having landed my NAP at 10/1 in 2008 in the Triumph Hurdle and in March of this year coming off second best in a terrific finish to the Champion Hurdle.

There are plenty of reasons to think that Celestial Halo will go one better this year. Here are the positives:

  • Trained by Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls
  • Horses tend to improve from 5 years old to 6 years old
  • Celestial Halo loves Cheltenham and is already a Festival winner
  • Has more stamina than speed – generally the type that win a Champion Hurdle
  • Came a close 2nd last year in the race so on the face of it doesn’t need to improve much to win

A potential negative is that Ruby Walsh might ride current favourite Hurricane Fly but there is a reasonable chance Ruby will stick to Celestial Halo. A lot will depend on how the Fly copes with older opposition this season. The favourite is one of those horses who could be a superstar but he has yet to win at Cheltenham or compete against older horses – 2 big unknowns. The first couple of races will tell us how good he might but there is no doubting he was simply awesome in his races last season. I was very taken with the way he could seemingly be dropped into a race and then be produced and win as required. But at the prices – Hurricane Fly is a best priced 7/2 – I’d rather back Celestial Halo who is the value bet at this stage at 14/1.

Potentially, it’s a very strong field for the 2010 Champion Hurdle with last year’s winner Punjabi, 3rd horse Binocular, Irish horse Solwhit and Triumph Hurdle winner Zaynar also in the mix. I feel that Punjabi got the run of the race last year and whilst he obviously likes Cheltenham, his overall profile is not as attractive as Celestial Halo’s.

Binocular was many people’s idea of a banker last year and there are plenty on the Betfair forum putting him up for 2010. However, for me he’s a speed horse suited to courses like Ascot, where he thrashed Celestial Halo, but not the ups and downs of Prestbury Park where stamina is required.

Solwhit won at Aintree in a race where several contenders including Celestial Halo disappointed but as this was at the end of the season I wouldn’d read too much into the form. He then went onto beat Punjabi in a photo finish at Punchestown which to me was pretty impressive but he has no experience of Cheltenham and is practically half the price of Celestial Halo.

Zaynar won the 2009 Triumph Hurdle and attempts to make the difficult transition to the older ranks and like Hurricane Fly he’s an unknown quantity against 5 year olds and upwards.

Recommended bet: 1 point ew Celestial Halo 14/1 – Victor Chandler