Respected trainer Nicky Henderson rates the chances of his hurdlers for next week's Cheltenham Festival in an interview with Coral, which includes entries for the World Hurdle and Champion Hurdle.
Formerly a triple British jump racing Champion Trainer, Henderson sat down with Coral to rate the chances of his biggest hurdle race hopes for Cheltenham Festival success between 10-13 March.
"I think it is wide open", has said. "There may be a lot of short-priced favourites but they are all going to be vulnerable."
Supreme Novices Hurdle - L'Ami Serge
Douvan spearheads a potential 17-strong field for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle which opens the Cheltenham Festival next Tuesday. Although Willie Mullins' five-year-old is the hot favourite, Henderson's L'Ami Serge is tipped to be the strongest opposition at 7/2 thanks to a trio of wins on the bounce.
Henderson said: "He's a nice one to kick off the meeting with and it would be even nicer if the ferry could leave Willie Mullins' horse (Douvan) in Ireland! We keep hearing frightening things about it, but that's reputations and what it's all about.
"I think [L'Ami Serge] compares as well as anything I've had for that race before. He's a lovely big horse and got all the right credentials. His preparation has gone well, so it would be a nice way to start it. I think he can cope with anything. He's a classy horse and he's got the experience so if he can put that all together, then they're all beatable."
Champion Hurdle - Vaniteux
The opening day's featured championship race is the 3.20pm Champion Hurdle, where eight are set to compete in the 2m110y contest including the unbeaten Faugheen, the star of rival trainer, Mullins.
While the odds appear stacked against Faugheen's opposition, the field is a full of quality including The New One, Jezki, Hurricane Fly and Henderson's stable star, Vaniteux, who finished third in the 2014 Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
On the 33/1 latter, Henderson commented: "I'm quietly looking forward to it to be honest. I think he is really well at the moment. He's up to this sort of standard and, given good ground, I think he's knocking on the door."
World Hurdle - Blue Fashion/Whisper
Two more will represent Henderson in Thursday's World Hurdle, both Blue Fashion and Whisper relative outsiders with the bookmakers. The latter is slightly better priced at 12/1, having come out victorious at last year's Cheltenham Festival in the Coral Cup.
Henderson added: "With Whisper, everything looked hunky dory last season - especially in the three-mile race at Aintree where that was a great performance - but I don't know if that was all a little bit much for him.
"Blue Fashion has some form that shows he is definitely capable of this and he was second to Faugheen at Ascot first time out this year, so he could be there."
Triumph Hurdle - Top Notch/Hargam/Peace And Co
No fewer than three entries will represent Henderson in the Triumph Hurdle which opens the final day of action, two of which top the odds currently among most bookmakers with under a week to go. Leading the way is 9/4 Peace and Co after two comfortable wins from as many starts, while second favourite Hargam will return to the same Cheltenham venue he won at by just over a length in December.
Peace and Co will wear earplugs for the race while original back-up, Top Notch, is expected to be impressive at 10/1 value after three wins from three outings.
"It goes back to the day at Doncaster when [Peace and Co] won then; even I was fairly gobsmacked by what we saw that day. Barry [Geraghty] just needed to educate him a bit at Cheltenham and, he didn't win as easily as he had the first time, but they were better horses anyway. Secondly, we'd ridden him in an exagerated way in a rather slowly-run race and that has done him a lot of good. He's much more relaxed.
Henderson added on Top Notch: "Yes he was sitting in the wings in case anything went wrong, but then he was very impressive in the Victor Ludorum (Haydock), so he's going to take his chance."
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle - Caracci Apache/Out Sam/Vyta Du Roc
Henderson meanwhile has three entries also for Friday's Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, Caracci Apache looking his best hope at 14/1 for the three-mile hurdle on Friday afternoon.
Black Hercules enters favourite currently with the bookmakers although three consecutive wins for Caracci Apache should not be overlooked, neither should Henderson's other hopefuls Out Sam and Vyta Du Roc.
"I think they're all realistic. Caracci Apache is three from three and has won over three miles, then with Out Sam, the further he will go the better he will be. He's unbeaten and again he deserves a crack at it.
"Vyta Du Roc has had a fantastic season. He just got beaten in the [Newbury] Challow which is Grade 1 form. That usually stands you in pretty good stead. He's just got caught on the back foot a couple of times coming down the hill at Cheltenham and we're all keen that three miles will help him with that."
Coral Offers And Promotions
Coral already provide punters with numerous opportunities to pick up free bets when betting on all forms of horse racing, including enhanced odds offers for new customers, consolation refunds or bonus rewards for backing a winning selection.
In time for the Cheltenham Festival, Coral also offer non-runner no bet refunds for all races over the four days, plus a £5 free bet for every winner Ruby Walsh rides on the opening day of the Festival when you bet £20 or more on the Supreme Novices Hurdle.