| 13.8°C Dublin

Fly's 3/1 favourite to retain Champion


Hurricane Fly, with Ruby Walsh up,

Hurricane Fly, with Ruby Walsh up,

Hurricane Fly, with Ruby Walsh up,

HURRICANE FLY is the clear 3/1 favourite with Boylesports to win a third Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham following the release of the entries for the race.

There were no real surprises among the list of 18 entries for the opening day feature with six of them being trained in Ireland and four of them by Willie Mullins.

The Irish champion trainer has given entries to his unbeaten mare Annie Power, the well regarded yet slightly unknown package in Un De Sceaux, and the three-time Grade One winner Thousand Stars.

Rivalling Hurricane Fly at the head of the betting is Nigel Twiston-Davies' The New One.

My Tent Or Yours is also prominent in the bookmakers lists after beating The New One at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle.

The other two Irish representatives are Jezki and Our Conor, who are both set to re-tackle Hurricane Fly in the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle later this month.

Like My Tent Or Yours, Jezki carries the colours of JP McManus and his trainer, Jessica Harrington, said: "At the moment, the Stan James Champion Hurdle is very much the aim for Jezki.

"I have been delighted with him since Christmas. Maybe he was a bit unlucky there, but he ran a very good race and it was the first time he had come up against that class of horse.

"He runs a week on Sunday in the Irish Champion Hurdle. His preparation has gone very well and we will have to wait and see if he can get closer to Hurricane Fly – it all depends on luck in-running and how the race goes," she added.

Jezki was third in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle behind Champagne Fever and My Tent Or Yours and Harrington is looking forward to returning to the Cotswolds.

"He went to Cheltenham last year and was beaten by two very good horses. His jumping was probably a little sloppy on the day, but he gets two and a half miles and I see no reason why he won't run very well in the Champion Hurdle."

Meanwhile, after reporting a gamble on Tony Martin's Quick Jack on Tuesday, sponsors Boylesports yesterday said that Reizovic was the horse for support in the Boylesports.com Hurdle in just over a week.

The John Kiely trained nine-year-old has been absent since running at Leopardstown over Christmas in 2011 but he was cut from 33/1 into 20/1, while after being cut from 8/1 into 6/1 and then 5/1, Quick Jack is now just 4/1 for the race in which Boylesports are already non-runner/no-bet.

RUBY WALSH is more keen to see how Big Buck's performs on his eagerly-awaited return in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday week than be drawn into the debate about who should be riding the staying great.

Walsh has partnered the 11-year-old to 16 of his 18 consecutive victories, including his record-breaking four triumphs in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

However, with Walsh now fully committed to Willie Mullins, Big Buck's will have a new rider at Cheltenham later this month and it emerged last week Sam Twiston-Davies would come in for the plum ride.

Trainer Paul Nicholls explained his decision over the weekend, stating he felt number one rider Daryl Jacob saw the ride as "something of a poisoned chalice" as Big Buck's makes his first appearance since December 2012.

Walsh said: "It all depends on how Big Buck's comes back in the Cleeve Hurdle. If he's the horse that won in Newbury 14 months ago, it doesn't really matter who is riding him. He doesn't take much riding.

"He's a very good horse and I'd be more interested in seeing how the horse is.

"You'd cut your right hand off to ride a horse like Big Buck's. That's a choice I made.

"He's an exceptional horse, he's a standard-bearer in jump racing and he's an exciting ride for Sam Twiston-Davies."