Frazzled looks at the Champion Hurdle on Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival and is going for a big priced winner in the shape of the Nicky Henderson trained Top Notch.
This is the big race of the day and one that everyone will want to have a bet in. To be honest however it makes rather limited appeal as a betting medium and looks a modest renewal of the race in the absence of Faugheen.
Annie Power could prove to be a class apart today and gets an extremely generous 7lb mares allowance. After always wanting to see her in this race and getting frustrated at seeing her pot hunting around the UK to allow some stable companions to dominate on home spoil, she now arrives here with a far from ideal preparation. Her last visit here resulted in a fall at the final hurdle and since then, she has had two saunters around from the front to win her last two races. In a poor renewal she could win, but her jumping will be tested, her natural pace will be tested and she might have to settle in behind horses for the first time in a long time. She can be passed over.
The New One has won two from 3 this year but has been unimpressive. He came into the race last year on the back of 4 wins, some of which were unimpressive and he was well beaten into 5th. The better ground suits but we cannot back him.
Nicholls Canyon is a little terrier and has not got the credit he deserves this season. He beat Faugheen at Punchestown and it was all about the beaten favourite rather than giving praise to the winner. He then beaty Identity Thief in very bad ground at Leopardstown over Christmas and that race clearly left his mark when he ran a lifeless race in the Irish Champion Hurdle, where we firmly believe the performance of Faugheen has been vastly overrated. This drop back in trip from the 2m5f that he contested in the Neptune last year, will suit and he makes easily the most appeal of the market leaders.
Identity Thief is a classy horse with loads of ability, but really looks a chaser and while he has some excellent form this year, if he jumps anything like he did in the straight at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth, he has no chance and will do well to stay on his feet. He will be exciting in the Arkle next season.
The value horse in this race looks to be Top Notch. He has a bit to find with the market leaders, but he could really be suited by this contest and should run a blinder. After a very good juvenile season, he made a very good reappearance at Haydock when he led for much of the contest and looked the winner for a lot of the straight. However he was not great over the second last and then a sloppy jump at the last allowed a perfectly timed Irving run to sweep past him. After that he was asked to appear the following weekend and again ran a blinder when just touched off by Identity Thief. He then ran below from on horrible ground at Cheltenham on New Year's Day but was freshened up and won very easily last time in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso. That was a number of classes below this level, but he showed that he can be effective when held up, jumped well and cruised clear in the closing stages. He comes here as a fresh horse now, can hopefully be held up off the pace which Annie Power might try and set, or he could make it himself. Either way if he jumps like he can, he could make them all go as he will be staying on very well up the hill. He looks a bit of value at 18/1.
1 point each way Top Notch at 18/1 with Bet365, Paddy Power, Stan James and William Hill
1 point each way Nicholls Canyon at 13/2 with Bet365, Coral, Paddy Power and William Hill