Cheltenham Festival: Champion Hurdle Preview
The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and it always attracts an extremely strong field. The prize purse for this Grade 1 contest stands at £400,000 and millions of fans and punters will tune in to watch the drama unfold.
It is the most prestigious hurdling event in the National Hunt calendar and has seen some very famous winners over the years, including National Spirit, Istabraq and Hatton’s Grace. It began in 1927 and has long been the centrepiece event for the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, which is arguably the biggest racing meeting in the world.
Who won the Champion Hurdle in 2017?
Buveur D’Air produced a scintillating performance to win last year’s Champion Hurdle from stablemate My Tent Or Yours. It was a one-two for trainer Nicky Henderson, who became the record holder for the most wins of all-time in this renewal. Petit Mouchoir was third for Henry De Bromhead, and favourite Yarnworth disappointed.
Have any horses won the Champion Hurdle two years running?
Several horses have won the Champion Hurdle twice in a row, including National Spirit, Monksfield and Insurance. In fact, five horses have won the Champion Hurdle for three years running.
Hatton’s Grace first pulled it off in 1949-1951 and then Sir Ken took over, winning it for the next three years. Persian War dominated from 1968 to 1970, while See You Then won three on the trot from 1985-1987. Finally, the legendary Istabraq won it in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Which top trainers have horses scheduled to run in the Champion Hurdle?
Henderson is back with Buveur D’Air, who could complete the Triple Crown of Hurdling after winning this season’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle. Henderson has a strong hand, as My Tent Or Yours, Charli Parcs, Campeador, Call Me Lord and Verdana Blue are all in the mix for this race.
Willie Mullins is represented by Faugheen, Min, Melon, Yorkhill, Wicklow Brave and Bapaume in the early card. De Bromhead, Dan Skelton, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Gordon Elliott and Colin Tizzard all have horses scheduled to run in the Champion Hurdle too.
Who are the horses to watch?
All eyes will be on Buveur D’Air after the reigning champion hurdler extended his winning run to nine races with a comfortable victory at Sandown last weekend. He has dominated hurdling this year and looked full of pace and dynamism as he romped to victory in the Christmas Hurdle.
But another heavyweight contender will also attract a lot of attention as many will remember Faugheen’s masterful performance in the 2015 Champion Hurdle. He won back-to-back Christmas Hurdles in 2014 and 2015 too, and not long ago he was rated by Timeform as the best hurdler in training.
His last two races have resulted in disappointment: he was the heavy favourite in the Ryanair Hurdle in December but was mysteriously pulled up, and he could only finish second at Musselburgh on his return last weekend. However, it he remains on an upward curve he can be a threat as he has the talent to really trouble Buveur D’Air.
What are the odds on Buveur D’Air winning his second consecutive Champion Hurdle?
Buveur D’Air is the 4/9 favourite to win a second consecutive Champion Hurdle and it is easy to imagine the public lumping on him. He is in phenomenal form and seems to have only got better since his win last year, so it is hard to justify opposing him at present.
What are the odds on Faugheen winning the Champion Hurdle?
The odds on Faugheen have been shifting and he is now the 5/1 second favourite to win the Champion Hurdle. Some have been encouraged by his performance at Musselburgh, suggesting it could herald a return to form, so there is plenty of action going on Faugheen.
Who looks the best longshot?
The odds on Defi Du Seuil keep drifting as his two starts this season have resulted in lacklustre performances and disappointing results. But Philip Hobb’s five-year-old won all seven races before that, including the JCB Triumph Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, and he has the talent to challenge for a place in the Champion Hurdle, so he could be a good each-way shot.