At 40/1 Verdana Blue is a daft price for the Champion Hurdle. I can only imagine the bookies have taken trainer Henderson’s oft stated word that she must have good ground. Her record does not back that up. She ran the best race of her career last time on good to soft beating Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air, her stable companion. Not only did she beat him but did so under a tender of ride, overtaking the champ close home with what might best be described as passive hands and heels riding (she was ending Buveur D’Air’s unbeaten hurdling record).
It’s likely to be soft for the Champion Hurdle, a surface she has run competitively on only once when down the field last season in the Betfair Hurdle. She won just a single race last season. This season she is unlucky not to be unbeaten having had several traffic problems after the last (normally 2nd last) in the Greatwood Hurdle before finishing a fast closing 4th with quite a bit of running left in her.
So, she could be going for five in a row here had she had more luck. As to last time over hurdles, when a champion is beaten, or a horse does something unexpectedly good, the default position for many racing analysts is ‘ something went wrong. X or Y didn’t run its race. The favourite was under the weather etc.’ In my experience they often revert to this as shorthand for ‘I didn’t predict this or anything close to it so I can’t be wrong, it must be the result that’s wrong’.
Over the years I’ve found it much more profitable to take the view that what you just saw is very likely to be exactly what you just saw.
The other two mares in the race, Apple’s Jade and Laurina will take up all the pre-race headlines tomorrow, understandably as Henderson’s pre-race comment about his own mare is almost dismissive: ‘Verdana Blue is ground-dependent and it’s obviously going to go against her, but we’re going to run and I wish her the best.’ It’s very plain then that it’s the owners who have forced the run here and I very much hope their faith will be rewarded.
EW Verdana Blue at 40/1 – Betfair and Paddy Power