It will be a major shock if HURRICANE FLY cannot gain his 11th success over hurdles on his 13th start and retain the title he won with a hard-fought success over Solwhit a year ago. Willie Mullins' brilliant hurdler was returning from injury that day and has since improved with every run culminating in a superb victory in the Champion Hurdle where he had Thousand Stars in fourth and Menorah a place behind. It's very difficult to see either of those reversing the form while Alaivan and Blackstairmountain haven't shown the quality for this so it's Binocular who looks the biggest threat. Nicky Henderson's former champion has had his problems well documented and didn't stay 2m4f in the Aintree Hurdle but he's a class act at his best and both track and going will suit.
Alaivan (IRE) 5-1fav (11-10) Chased leaders, 6th halfway, 4th 2 out, ridden and no extra before last, kept on same pace, 5th of 13, 9l behind Jack Cool (11-1) at Fairyhouse 2m hcp hdl gd in Apr.
Binocular (FR) 7-4 (11-7) Held up in touch in 5th, closed before 3 out, ridden after 2 out, no impression and stayed on same pace flat, 4th of 8, 13l behind Oscar Whisky (11-7) at Aintree 2m 4f hdl G1 (1) gd in Apr.
Blackstairmountain (IRE) 4-1 (11-10) Settled in rear, good progress to track leaders in 4th approaching 2 out, smooth headway to lead at last, soon ridden and found little under pressure, headed late run-in, 2nd of 10, 1 1/2l behind Voler La Vedette (11-3) at Fairyhouse 2m 4f hdl G2 (1) gd in Apr.
Hurricane Fly (IRE) 11-4fav (11-10) Held up in mid-division, headway from 3 out to track leaders going well 2 out, challenged approaching last and led at hurdle, driven and edged right under pressure flat, in command last 50 yards, won at Cheltenham 2m hdl G1 (1) gd in Mar beating Peddlers Cross (11-10) by 1 1/4l, 11 ran.
Menorah (IRE) 3-1 (11-10) Held up in touch, hit 5th, tracking leaders 3 out, ridden after 2 out and unable to quicken, 4th and beaten when mistake last, one pace, 5th of 11, 10l behind Hurricane Fly (11-10) at Cheltenham 2m hdl G1 (1) gd in Mar.
Thousand Stars (FR) 16-1 (11-7) Held up in 6th, took keen hold, headway travelling well 3 out, ridden to chase winner flat, hard driven and kept on, closing near finish, just failed, 2nd of 8, nk behind Oscar Whisky (11-7) at Aintree 2m 4f hdl G1 (1) gd in Apr.