It looks highly unlikely that there will be any Champion clues on offer this weekend with the weather threatning to wipe out the top class meetings at Haydock and Ascot but looking ahead the 2013 Champion Hurdle could well be a vintage renewal after the 34 entries where published this week which includes the last four winners of the race begining with the 2009 winner Punjabi, Binocular so impressive in 2010, Willie Mullins 2011 winner the brillaint Hurricane Fly who has taken three Grade 1 races since finishing 3rd to Rock On Ruby in last year Champion Hurdle.
Hurricane Fly is sure to among the favourites to reclaim his crown and rightly so for a horse with in excess of ten grade 1 wins over hurdles to his name but will face some seriously strong opposition from Nicky Hendersons stable headed by Darlan who ploughed through heavy going that would not have been to his liking to impressivly win Kempton's Christmas Hurdle on his seasonal debut.
Grandouet another from the Henderson yard and made a very pleasing comeback from a year off when not given a hard race when not beaten far into 2nd to the race fit Zarkanda another leading Champion Hurdle contender in the International Hurdle with last years Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby finishing 3rd after runing out of steam in the closing stages which was understandable in the dire ground on his seasonal debut. He should make a bold effort to retain his title.
Binocular another from the Henderson stable will also make a bid to reclaim his crown but could only manage 4th last year and a repeat of that finishing position may be the limit to what he can achieve nowdays.
Last years Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes is currently A 16/1 shot but behind him in that race was Darlan who has more than franked the form since and his two runs this season have been in unsuitable conditions when finishing a well beaten 2nd to Countrywide Flame (who showed his appreation for Cheltenham when taking last years Triumph Hurdle) in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and after that he was well beaten in Darlan's race at Kempton. A return to better ground could well spark a major revival.
Other notable entries tho not certain to take there place in the line up are Oscar Whiskey, Peddlers Cross, Thousand Stars and Gordon Elliots rapidly improving Cause Of Causes who was so impressive when sloshing through the mud at Ascot to win the Ladbroke with real authority and if there is going to be a shock he may well be the most likely candidate.
If I was asked to name the winner now tho id have to say Grandouet with his proven from around Cheltenham and there should be plenty of improvment to come after his seasonal debut.