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Lord is worthy rival to Willie’s solid State Man

Iberico Lord (nearside) has already won at Cheltenham this season
Iberico Lord (nearside) has already won at Cheltenham this season

SORRY to state the obvious, but State Man is going to take a lot of beating in today’s Champion Hurdle (3:30pm).

He’s 10lb clear on ratings and is currently in a league of his own, with his main protagonist in the division, Constitution Hill, sidelined through illness.

Despite living in the shadows of that rival in recent times, he’s racked up an impressive string of Grade One wins and has brushed away his rivals without too much fuss.

His jumping looks slicker than ever, he stays well and is straightforward, he has no issues with Cheltenham and simply looks to arrive without a chink in his armour.

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Putting something up to beat him might look clever if there’s a shock result, but I think State Man would win this nine times out of 10.

The way to play Tuesday’s feature could therefore be by taking the 3/1 with BetVictor about IBERICO LORD winning without State Man in the market.

His price of 11/1 still has a bit of juice in it from an each-way betting perspective as well, and overall, he looks a solid contender, particularly with all the rain that’s set to fall.

Testing conditions hold no fears for the recent heavy ground Betfair Hurdle winner and he’s a horse on the up.

He’s reportedly been working really well at home since his Newbury win, certainly well enough to convince owner JP McManus to part with £18,000 to supplement him, and there’s just a feeling that he could be the one to give State Man a fright.

The last horse that connections won the Betfair Hurdle with was My Tent Or Yours, who subsequently went on to finish runner-up in the Supreme on his next start and second in the next three Champion Hurdles.

CHAMPION HURDLE 1-2-3

  1. STATE MAN

  2. IBERICO LORD

  3. IRISH POINT

Of the others, Irish Point isn’t without a chance, despite dropping back almost a mile in trip since his last run in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

He’s still proven over this distance, albeit in lesser company, while he remains the only horse to have beaten electric French jumper Il Est Francais, and that win came over 1m4½f in a Grade 1 AQPS race at Saint-Cloud.

I’d be sweeter on his chances if he was lining up in the Stayers’, not least because it looks a much more open race, but connections have Teahupoo in there.

They clearly feel Irish Point can still run with plenty of credit in a championship race over two miles, so he’s taken to fill out the first three.

Zarak The Brave is an interesting second string for team Mullins, particularly as he’s around the 18/1 mark.

He won as he liked last time at Naas and looks a progressive type, but only two five-year-olds have won this in the last 40 years.

Remember the name, as he looks like making up into a good horse in time, but this year’s Champion Hurdle might come a little too soon.

The exact opposite could be said for veteran Not So Sleepy, who’s running at Cheltenham for the fifth year in a row.

He’s had a slightly lighter campaign than in previous years and handles plenty of cut underfoot, so wouldn’t be too far away from the first three if running up to his mark.

They’re all playing for minor money though, as this really is State Man’s to lose, and if he does fail to fire, then Iberico Lord looks first in line to pick up the pieces.

POINTERS

Iberico Lord w/o State Man          3.30pm                Cheltenham

Iberico Lord e/w                             3.30pm                Cheltenham