Hurricane Fly - Leopardstown - 29/01/2012

Hurricane Fly: defending champion is odds-on for the Champion Hurdle

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

Walsh believes Fly will star on festival day one

AFTER months of anticipation the four-day jump racing extravaganza that is the Cheltenham Festival has almost arrived.

At 1.30pm on Tuesday the runners and riders for the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle will set off, accompanied by the traditional Cheltenham roar from the massed ranks in the stands.

The day one centrepiece is the Stan James Champion Hurdle – and the race revolves around one horse.

Hurricane Fly is odds-on favourite to win the race for a second year running, and jockey Ruby Walsh feels the eight-year-old should deliver for his backers.

Walsh said: "I thought Binocular was good at Wincanton, but to me it all points to Hurricane Fly. He is the form horse, he is the champion and by the laws of probability you'd have to think that he should win."

Mullins also trains Quevega, who will be bidding to defend her mares' hurdle crown for the fourth straight year, and, with Racing Post Arkle favourite Sprinter Sacre also odds-on it could prove a bad day for the bookies in their battle with the punters.

Backing the trio in a treble with Ladbrokes pays nearly 4-1, and spokesman David Williams is aware of the damage that  will ensue if all three oblige. He said: "We left last year's meeting needing smelling salts and we've only just recovered. If the three odds-on horses score we'll wish we'd never returned to the festival."

More selective watering at Cheltenham on Monday kept the ground unchanged at good, good to soft in places, for the start of the festival.

The cross-country course remained good to firm, although parts were watered along with the Old Course, which hosts the action for the first two days. Simon Claisse, clerk of the course, said: "We watered probably a total of six furlongs of the Old Course in places where it is always quicker and it was finished by lunchtime.

"It was a helpful morning's weather, staying cloudy to keep moisture in, but it was sunny by 3pm."

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