3.30 The Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 2m ½f
All winners since 2009, OR 163 or higher. Seven and six-year-olds have won eight renewals since 2006. Six winners priced at 9/1 or higher. Six Irish trained winners since 2006. Seven (IRE) bred winners since 2006.
NICHOLLS CANYON TR 160 runs for Willie Mullins after the loss of Faugheen and Arctic Fire. PEACE AND CO TR 161 needs to get back on track while THE NEW ONE TR 163 appears to have had his chance in this race. IDENTITY THIEF TR 157p is an improving sort. He needs to sharpen up his jumping to match his undoubted ability.
The loss of Faugheen robs the Festival of a true star. MY TENT OR YOURS TR 167? worked in good style at Kempton Park. Most noticeable was his demeanour both before and during the gallop. He settled well and jumped fluently. ANNIE POWER TR 162 heads most lists. Having finished second to More Of That (Career best RPR came in that race) in a World Hurdle two years ago, one would imagine that stamina, rather than speed, would prove her strongest asset these days. Latest comments from the “Mullins Camp” suggest she will head this way. The last mare to run in this race was Asian Maze. At her best, she was OR rated 4lb lower than Annie Power. However, looking at their respective profiles there are similarities between the two mares. Asian Maze fell and finished seventh in two attempts at this prize. IDENTITY THIEF TR 157p is attracting some support in the ante-post market. His trainer handled Sizing Europe to Grade One hurdle success. He feels the horse is improving while his jumping technique has been worked on during his time away from the track. IDENTITY THIEF holds a narrow margin win over recent winner TOP NOTCH TR 158 while his second to NICHOLLS CANYON looked a run full of promise. The latter ran 15/16lb below his two previous runs when disappointing in the Irish Champion Hurdle. SEMPRE MEDICI TR 154 ran himself into a possible appearance when successful in the Red Mils at Gowran Park. PEACE AND CO TR 161 has had his soft palate cauterized as breathing problems were been holding him back. Whether his confidence can be restored for a race of this magnitude is open to debate. OLD GUARD TR 154 is reported to be back in form on the Ditcheat gallops. A course winner, he is another player in an intriguing mystery.
ANNIE POWER (With mares allowance) 169
MY TENT OR YOURS 165?
NICHOLS CANYON 160
THE NEW ONE 158
CAMPING GROUND 156
PEACE AND CO 155
PURPLE BAY 154
TOP NOTCH 154
IDENTITY THIEF 152
OLD GUARD 152
SEMPRE MEDICI 150
Modified extract from the Cheltenham Preview which is available at grahamrichardsonline.co.uk