Our Conor battling weight of history in 2014 Champion Hurdle
Our Conor’s breathtaking Triumph Hurdle victory had bookmakers falling over themselves to shorten him in the Cheltenham 2014 odds, with the Champion Hurdle widely expected to be his aim.
In arguably the standout performance of the finest four days of jumps racing you’ll ever see, he made a mockery of 4/1 pre-race joint-favouritism (shared with Paul Nicholls’ Far West) to float home some 14 lengths clear of his nearest rival.
A step, nay a leap, to all-age company awaits and it’s one that very few Triumph winners have seen end in Champion Hurdle success the following campaign.
Countrywide Flame may have managed a highly-creditable third in last year’s contest having won the Triumph in 2013, but was he unable to make an impression on the 2012 and 2011 winners Hurricane Fly and Rock On Ruby, who occupied first and second.
When it’s considered that the great Persian War and Katchit are the only horses to have managed to do the double in consecutive years since the race’s inception in 1939 the size of the task Our Conor is faced with becomes stark.
If he is to succeed Dessie Hughes’ gelding will need to do so with a new jockey in the plate after his purchase by leading owner Barry Connell, who counts the likes of Grade 1-winning novice chaser Mount Benbulben among his string.
Partnered throughout his unbeaten four-race career over timber by up-and-coming young pilot Bryan Cooper, he’ll now be going to war with the equally youthful Danny Mullins on his back.
Mullins is the retained jockey for Connell and must be thanking his lucky stars to nick such a choice ride from his weighing room buddy.