Just when we thought that the Champion Hurdle was beginning to take shape and that we had a new potential superstar in our midst in the shape of the Noel Meade trained Jered, Hardy Eustace, double Champion Hurdle winner in 2004 and 2005 has made us think again.
The manner of the veteran's win over Sizing Europe and Jered in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on 16th November was sublime, proving without doubt that there is no substitute for class and even less for guts. Haydock ShedsThe race was billed beforehand as a two horse race between Sizing Europe and Jered, the two had featured prominently at the head of the betting for the Champion Hurdle, along with Binocular and last year's winner, Katchit. Instead Hardy Eustace stole the show and with it laid down his credentials for a third tilt at the race in 2009.
Sizing Europe's connections should not be too disappointed; he looked good when grabbing the lead three out from Hardy Eustace, who had led from the start in his customary way; it looked like race over from there, but by the time he reached the last he appeared to simply run out of steam and could not fend off the renewed challenge of Hardy Eustace. However there was enough evidence to suggest that he will improve hugely for the race and he still might be the one to be on in the Champion Hurdle.
As for Jered, it was disappointing to say the least. Having been a very good winner last time out in October in the Anglos Irish Bank Hurdle, he had earned the right to be at the top of the Champion Hurdle betting, but on this showing he clearly does not have enough ability at the highest level.
All eyes now will be on the seasonal reappearance of Binocular in the Betfair Hurdle at Haydock Park. The Champion Hurdle favourite is in fine form at home according to trainer, Nicky Henderson and should be fit to run. Binocular was the very impressive winner over Triumph Hurdle winner, Celestial Halo last April at Aintree and has been vying for favouritism. With Jered well beaten and Katchit, at least so far this season, being unable to recapture his form, it is Binocular's turn to take the limelight.