GRAEME Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) continues his preview of this year's Cheltenham Festival with a Champion Hurdle pick.
Cheltenham Festival Fancies | 14-17 March 2017
The Champion Hurdle is the highlight of day one and my favourite race of the season, but this year it's becoming difficult to get excited about the race. Faugheen will miss his second straight festival and with reigning champion Annie Power also absent it's a race crying out for a superstar.
The fact the current favourite was only third in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season and has been redirected to the race from a chase career indicates that this is not a vintage renewal however I'm struggling to come up with a firm selection that represents value at this stage.
Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci make no secret of the fact this is a race they target and they look uncharacteristically short of options just now, or are they? With Faugheen and Annie Power out any normal owner would have to look at other races for success, but that may not be the case here.
Vroum Vroum Mag has only tasted defeat once for connections and is something of a career super sub. Her festival target has been up in the air all winter and she seems to pick up races that the stable doesn't have anything else to aim at. She has wins over fences and hurdles to her name and is versatile with trip and ground.
With no viable options for the big race she may well end up Willie Mullins main hope and if she turns up on the day with Ruby Walsh on her back it's possible she may even be sent off favourite. Most bookmakers are now non runner now bet for this race and at double figure odds she's worth a bet with that safety net on offer.
Last season she won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in the Spring and won at this meeting last year in the Mares Hurdle. She is a very high class mare and I firmly believe she will hold her own in this if she is sent here. With Limini an option for the Mares and her other potential targets looking more competitive I have a feeling she will end up here.
Graeme Johnstone's Festival Fancies
Champion Hurdle – Vroum Vroum Mag (10/1 BetVictor*)
* = This firm are offering Non Runner No Bet on this race.