OUR racing man Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) is in red hot form at the moment. Can it continue today as he tackles the Irish Champion Hurdle?
15:05 Leopardstown | At The Races
The Irish Champion Hurdle is upon us and for the first time in five years it won't be won by Hurricane Fly. However it will be won by Willie Mullins who trains the three best 2 mile hurdlers around and all three line up here in an intriguing race!
Faugheen lost his unbeaten record to stablemate Nichols Canyon at Punchestown earlier in the season but showed he was back to his old self when winning the Christmas Hurdle last time out at Kempton. That day he didn't have to be at his best to win but he looked fitter and deserves to be favourite here.
Nichols Canyon has only tasted defeat twice since being sent over timber, once when unseasting over course and distance, and the other at the Cheltenham Festival in the Neptune Hurdle.
That day he was held up and never really settled and over the longer trip he didn't quite get home. He seems at his best when allowed to dominate and he handles the heavy ground he will encounter here.
Arctic Fire must hate life. In any other stable he would be the star and flag bearer for the yard but in the Mullins camp he's not even a head- turner. One of the most progressive horses in training last season he seems held by these two and it looks like he's playing for third place here. Still a nice easy ten grand for connections.
So what's the bet? Faugheen is too short at 1/3 and Nichols Canyon will struggle to confirm his earlier victory over the favourite. The bet I like here is with PaddyPower. They offer winning distance betting and have priced up Faugheen to win by up to and including 3 and 3/4 lengths at 5/2 and the more I look at it the more I like it.
On this heavy ground Faugheen's exceptional speed will be blunted and he comes up against two rivals who both stay well and act on the ground. I expect Faugheen to win but Ruby is not going to want to bottom him out before Cheltenham and I see this as the value approach to the race.
15:05 Leopardstown – Faugheen to win by up to and including 3 and 3/4 lengths (5/2 Paddy Power)
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