The betting markets for the Champion Hurdle on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival have been reassessed after the tragic loss of Darlan at Doncaster on Monday. That horse was second favourite in most lists and sadly lost its life when appearing to be coming to win the trial at Doncaster.
Connections are aware of the risks of National Hunt racing. However, it is still devastating for Nicky Henderson to see one of his best horses lost in such tragic circumstances.
Darlan’s owner, JP McManus, lost Synchronised in last year’s Grand National. That hose had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous month and was trying to become just the second horse to complete the Gold Cup/National double in the same season.
Tony McCoy was riding Darlan and Synchronised in the races that saw their sad demise. He has now been involved in several fatal accidents with high class horses. It is testimony to his character and ability that he can continue to ride so many horses and winners after being involved in these truly unfortunate accidents.
An interesting point to emerge from the loss of Darlan has been the reaction of the more active animal rights organisations. In fact there has been little comment from these bodies. That is probably to do with the fact the accident happened at Doncaster on Monday and not at Aintree on Grand National Day.
Clearly the loss of life of a blameless animal in the pursuit of entertainment and financial gain for human beings has to be questioned. However, the massive knee-jerk reactions when horses fall fatally in the National is in contrast to what has been said and written by animal rights protestors this week.
Aside from the sad loss of Darlan the Doncaster race provided a good trial for Rock On Ruby. That horse now looks a leading contender to win the Champion Hurdle again after winning the race last year. The horse is now under the care of Harry Fry, a trainer who is now operating on his own behalf after preparing Rock On Ruby for the race last year when working at the Paul Nicholls yard.
Hurricane Fly is now a clear favourite for the Champion Hurdle and looks the best horse in the race at the distance. He won his third this season last month in the Irish Champion Hurdle and now is a good bet to become the first horse to retain his title since Comedy Of Errors in 1975. Hurricane Fly was the favourite for last year’s Champion Hurdle. His trainer, Willie Mullins, felt there was something slightly amiss last season and believes the animal is now back to its best.
Cotton Mill looks an interesting contender at a much bigger price. He looked to be giving Simonsig a race in last years Neptune Management Novices Hurdle. He was upsides the eventual impressive winner before falling at the second last. That was still decent form in the context of the Champion Hurdle and marks him down as a significant player especially at the odds available.
Back next Friday.