Champion Hurdle tips, preview, odds, runners and free bets

Cheltenham Festival day 1

Adrian Wall takes a closer peek at the feature race on Day 1 of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, the Champion Hurdle. Thirteen runners will go to post for what promises to be an absolute thriller.

Runner-by-runner guide

Abacadabras (odds 10-1)
Improves race by race throughout the season and should be fully wound up for this. Ran an eye-catching race when runner-up behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Well beat that day but the ground was against him and his stable was not fully firing. Enjoys a strongly run race which and was only beaten by a top-class rival at last year’s festival.

Aspire Tower (odds 20-1)
Disappointed on his sole festival start in last season’s JCB Triumph Hurdle. Finished second but would have been beaten out of sight if Goshen stayed on his feet. Beat Abacadabras in the WKD Hurdle but was in receipt of 6lb and the ground was soft that day. Henry de Bromhead has been bullish about his chances but he needs to find more improvement to stand a chance here.

Epatante (odds 7-2)
Really disappointed when suffering a heavy odds-on defeat over Christmas, although the trainer stated that a physical reason for the lacklustre performance was at play there. She won this race comfortably last year and is the sole representative for both Nicky Henderson and JP McManus. The famous green and gold hoops have won this race the last four years in a row.

Goshen (odds 4-1)
Bounced back to form last time, destroying the talented and 158-rated Song For Someone by 22 lengths. Would have won the Triumph Hurdle by half the track last season if he didn’t unseat rider at the final flight. He is a bit of an enigma but undoubtedly has a huge amount of talent and a huge engine. Won’t get a soft lead out in front here though.

Honeysuckle (odds 9-4)
Unbeaten top-class mare who arrives here off the back of an incredible win in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time. She is now a slicker jumper and has opted to go for the big one this year. There are reasons to take her on though – she will not appreciate the drying ground over a sharp two miles and she can idle in front. At the current odds, she could be worth opposing.

James Du Berlais (odds 20-1)
Comes here with a big reputation, is trained by a master handler and posted some excellent efforts in France. He has been pleasing at home according to Willie Mullins but this is a huge ask on debut for the stable. Also a young horse being just five years old, he might be one for fences next season and is best watched here.

Jason The Militant (odds 25-1)
May well be tasked with taking on Goshen up front to set up the race nicely for his stablemate Honeysuckle. Rachael Blackmore will also swerve the ride which will tell a lot about his chances. Impressive winner last time in beating Petit Mouchoir but drying ground would be a concern and he might be out of his depth.

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Not So Sleepy (odds 66-1)
Very quirky horse and a runner that is very hard to trust, clearly a bit of an enigma. Pulled up in this race last year after a joke of a start but he has been in good form this season, winning on the flat at Pontefract, finishing 4th in the Cesarewitch and won a valuable handicap at Ascot when last seen. Not quite up to Grade 1 level.

Petit Mouchoir (odds 100-1)
A fine servant to connections over the years but he is now a ten-year-old so would be regarded as an old horse now. He has looked below his usual standards this season, for all he finished fifth in this race last year. Habitual front-runner who could have a say in the race in other ways as he could upset Goshen in the lead.

Saldier (odds 66-1)
Hugely talented runner but he has suffered several setbacks in his career. He has only beaten one horse home in his two outings this term. He probably wants softer ground than he’s likely to encounter in this race. Still a young fresh horse being just seven and arguably could have won the 2018 renewal but for a fall at the last.

Sharjah (odds 16-1)
Arguably unlucky in this race last year when runner-up behind Epatante. Made up ground hand over fist that day but the mare got first run on him which sealed his fate. If he is closer to the pace turning in this year, then he has to enter calculations. Drying ground is a positive and he is an each-way contender.

Silver Streak (odds 16-1)
One could argue that this boy is too big a price. He finally got his Grade 1 medal last time out at his favoured Kempton. If official ratings are to be believed then he is no 16-1 poke. He’s rated 2lb higher than Epatante before taking into account her mares allowance and he’s only rated 1lb inferior to Goshen. Enjoys good ground.

Song For Someone (odds 40-1)
Another talented horse but this is a race that won’t be run to suit. He could get taken out of his comfort zone in the early stages  and he was blown away Goshen last time. There is a chance that connections might give this race a miss as a flatter track like Aintree would be more up his street.

Champion Hurdle tip

With so much pace guaranteed up front, it is hard to get away from the chances of Abacadabras for this. He is a strong traveller who should be swinging off the bridle turning for home when push comes to shove. It took a monumental effort from Shishkin to defeat him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season and that horse is now 1-2 for the Arkle. If this lad is back to his best on favoured drying ground, he looks a superb each-way play.

Champion Hurdle free bets

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