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Champion Hurdle Preview: a 'stronger' State Man + the horse who worked like a rocket

Leopardstown 4 February 2024 The Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 State Man with Paul TownendLeopardstown 4 February 2024 The Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 State Man with Paul Townend
© Photo Healy Racing

A crestfallen Nicky Henderson watched on as Nico De Boinville hopped straight off his superstar, Constitution Hill, following a deeply concerning piece of work at Kempton Park this week.

Last year’s Champion Hurdle winner was working with two stable companions, including nascent star, Sir Gino, and came home tailed off. The imposing seven-year-old was whisked away to the stables and was found to have a mild lung infection.

Nicky Henderson has since released an update stating blood test results had shown significant inflammation, however a further scope after light exercise on Friday showed no signs of mucus. A blood test will be carried out Monday and will determine his participation in the Champion Hurdle.

These dramatic events caused a mid-week frenzy in the betting world as Constitution Hill’s price subsequently drifted in the market, while State Man, his main rival, shortened. The smart duo are both around odds-on with most firms, including Unibet.

We all know that preparation is everything for Cheltenham and by stark contrast, Willie Mullins, who is attempting to reach a staggering 100 Cheltenham Festival winners this year, recently expressed his delight with multiple Grade 1 winner State Man.

Last year, State Man finished nine lengths adrift of Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle, his sole career defeat, but Mullins believes that his contender is ‘stronger’ this year.

The big, galloping and straightforward type is Mr Reliable, a punter’s dream in many ways - he turns up, gives his all and gets the job done. He is fancied to land the big prize this year, whether Constitution Hill is in the line up or not.

Willie Mullins also gave his dazzling grey mare, Lossiemouth, an entry and she is third favourite in the market, however, this year, is likely to take the Mares’ Hurdle route for which she is odds-on favourite.

Irish Point has attracted plenty of supporters ahead of the Festival and is unbeaten in his last four starts. A dual Grade 1 winner, the progressive six-year-old holds entries in this race and the Stayers’ Hurdle. Trainer Gordon Elliott, has stated that he will decide closer to the Festival where he goes. If it comes up soft, Irish Point may well take his chance in Tuesday’s feature and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him serve it up to his older rivals.

Sandown 9 December 2023 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle Grade 1 won by Not So Sleepy Sandown 9 December 2023 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle Grade 1 won by Not So Sleepy
© Photo Healy Racing

Another contender who has enjoyed a smooth preparation is the enigmatic Not So Sleepy. An eight-length winner of the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in December, his trainer Hughie Morrison stated the quirky chestnut went up Lambourn gallops ‘like a rocket’ in a recent piece of work. He wouldn’t be the worst each-way bet at around 12-1 with Unibet if the wet weather arrives and there is plenty of give in the ground.

Trainer Kerry Lee harbours plenty of belief in her contender Namean Lion and is targeting the place money. The Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle winner is currently around 20-1 with Unibet.

UK customers can get a £1 free bet to spend on each day of the Festival with Unibet:

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