GREAT EXPECTATIONS

1 January 2006

Sunday Telegraph’s sports writing team look ahead to 2006 and select those who can make Britain proud again

HARCHIBALD

Going to the last flight Harchibald always looks the best hurdler in the Islands. But his unique talent is mixed with a gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Paul Carberry’s predicament in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham will be the most fascinating riding challenge of the year.

His second to dual winner Hardy Eustace last March was the most debated race of the jumping season. On that occasion he sat motionless beside the leader, the race apparently Harchibald’s for the taking, only for his partner to fail to run past when asked 100 yards from the line. Some thought Carberry had delayed too long while others believed he had arrived at the front too early. Five races later the split remains.

At Punchestown last March he jumped to the lead at the last and stopped on the run-in. At the same track in November he got trapped on the inside rail. At Cheltenham last March he led on the flat and kept on up the hill. At Leopardstown on Thursday, he was cruising going to the last but couldn’t catch the leader. He still has the talent to win the Champion Hurdle. But he will have to steal it by jumping the last flight behind the leaders with enough momentum to hit the front only on the wire.

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