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Harrington plots well-worn Deloitte path for Champion Hurdle hope

| 16.01.2014

Jessica Harrington’s 7/1 Champion Hurdle shout Jezki could be forgiven for getting lost amongst the dazzling array of talented animals priced up for the 2014 renewal of this great event.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ inmate The New One remains at the top of the market at 3/1, despite going down by half a length to 7/2 poke My Tent Or Yours at Kempton over Christmas.

The trainer’s son and The New One’s regularly jockey Sam insists connections won’t repeat the mistake they made on King George day by saddling a pacemaker at Prestbury Park, which they believe will tip the balance in the six-year-old’s favour.

Two-time winner and defending champion Hurricane Fly splits that pair in the betting at 10/3 and the prolific 10-year-old hasn’t lost a race since finishing third, five and a half lengths behind Rock On Ruby in 2012’s Champion Hurdle renewal nine runs ago.

Willie Mullins commented that the horse’s season was coming along nicely after beating Jezki by two and a half lengths in Leopardstown’s Ryanair Hurdle, but Harrington is confident her gelding can reverse that form in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the same venue.

The Grade One run over Christmas was only Jezki’s second over hurdles outside of novice company and the first time he’d come up against an opponent anywhere near the class of Mullins’ seasoned performer.

Pushing Hurricane Fly close in such circumstances was quite a feat from one so inexperienced and jockey Tony McCoy looks set for a head-scratcher at Cheltenham, with the 4,000+ race winner onboard for My Tent Or Yours’ last eight outings.

Providing Jezki comes out of his next appointment in good nick, another Leopardstown appointment awaits the six-year-old in the form of the Deloitte Hurdle, a well-worn path for Cheltenham hopefuls over the past couple of decades.

Istabraq won the prestigious Grade 1 by a head back in 1997 before bagging the Champion Hurdle prize in three consecutive seasons around the turn of the century.

Brave Inca also triumphed in the Deloitte a year before edging past Mac’s Joy in Cheltenham’s Tuesday spectacle in 2005.

No horse has managed to land the Deloitte and the Champion Hurdle in the same season since the former began in 1987, but Mullins’ Champagne Fever did land the Leopardstown race before going on to narrowly beat My Tent Or Yours and Jezki in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last March.

If Harrington’s hopeful can repay his trainer’s faith by getting the better of Mullins’ aging superstar later this month then Jezki might just be the beast that rewrites the record books this spring.