Monday 11 December 2017

Lack of front-runner is a major worry for Fry

Marcus Armytage

THE field for Tuesday's Stan James Champion Hurdle will be as small as last year when Rock On Ruby beat nine rivals. Just 10 horses were left in the race yesterday.

Besides Rock On Ruby, two other previous winners, Hurricane Fly and Binocular will bid to regain the title.

They are joined by the past two Triumph Hurdle winners, Countrywide Flame and Zarkandar, and last year's Supreme winner, Cinders And Ashes.

Binocular's trainer, Nicky Henderson, also has Grandouet and Khyber Kim in the line-up, but Oscar Whisky is being aimed at the World Hurdle.

Last year, the pace was provided by Overturn, who went an end-to-end gallop, but it is hard to see a natural front-runner this time, which will worry Harry Fry (trainer of Rock On Ruby), Paul Nicholls (Zarkandar) and John Quinn (Countrywide Flame).

Simonsig will face a maximum of 11 rivals in the Racing Post Arkle, for which he is the red-hot favourite, although one of those, his stable companion Captain Conan, is expected to go in the Jewson. The race, potentially one of the most exciting at this year's Festival, is billed as a match between Nicky Henderson's grey and the popular Overturn.

On ratings, the Willie Mullins trained Quevega is 11lb clear of her rivals as she bids to become the first horse since Golden Miller to win the same race in five consecutive years in the OLBG David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle, for which 22 stood their ground. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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