The big race of the day on day one of the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle. The best of the best in the two-mile hurdling division fight for the crown en route to becoming immortalised in the history of this great race. We at myracing are here to provide you with everything you need to know about this year’s runners, give you our verdict on who we think the winner will be and inform you of which horse the trends suggest will take the crown.
David Pipe’s five-year-old is the model of consistency. Adagio finished second to Quilixios and Monmiral in the spring festival Juvenile Grade 1s last season. He began the season with a mighty effort when finishing second in the Greatwood off top weight at Cheltenham in November. That was a terrific effort for a young horse and he backed that up by finishing second to Goshen in the Kingwell at Wincanton last time.
Appreciate It hasn’t been seen since his demolition job in the Supreme at last year’s festival. One would have to have reservations about a horse having his first run of the season and in open Grade 1 company for the first time in the biggest race of the season. However, many said that the two-mile trip was too sharp for him last year and he emphatically laid those doubts to rest.
This lad has improved significantly through the course of the season. Finishing second in the Christmas Hurdle was a career-best effort before probably improving again when winning the Betfair Hurdle last time. Significantly more improvement is needed to feature here in what is a high-class field. Weight conditions are against him as he effectively has 24lb to find with race favourite Honeysuckle.
It was most likely a career-best effort when fifth in this race last year and he backed that up in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November when dead-heating with Epatante. He has his own way of doing things and sometimes it works for him but it fails a lot of the time too. A stronger field this year means he has it all to do.
Saint Roi was considered a Champion Hurdle prospect after cruising to victory in the County Hurdle as a novice in 2020. Following on from that, the next season was somewhat disappointing as he looked short of the necessary gears for Grade 1 two-mile races. Having missed almost a year, his two runs this season haven’t suggested that he has made the necessary improvement to feature.
Teahupoo is a fascinating contender. The Gordon Elliott-trained five-year-old is improving with every start. He looked like a useful juvenile last season but avoided Cheltenham. Quilixios won the Triumph Hurdle last season and Teahupoo has proven multiple times this season that he has his number. Still unexposed, he looks like an interesting contender and he really could be anything.
What a fairy tale result this would be! Ann Hamilton’s gelding started the season on 139 and has improved to a rating of 156. This improvement culminated in a Champion Hurdle Trial win at Haydock last time out. Unfortunately the form for that race wouldn’t cut it at this level and he needs to find a fair amount of improvement.
Zanahiyr is another five-year-old who has had a very solid season having finished second in three Grade 1s. This gelding has to prove that Cheltenham is for him having disappointed when highly fancied for the Triumph Hurdle last year. More improvement will be needed as he was firmly beaten by Honeysuckle at Leopardstown on his last start.
She has looked more like her old self since having back surgery. Epatante was an impressive winner of the 2020 renewal but she had a below par season last year. It was much more like it in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time which suggests she’s back to somewhere near her best. Honeysuckle looks to have her measure but she could be of interest for each-way players.
The returning champion took the roof off when her and Rachael Blackmore stormed up the hill to take the crown in fine style in last year’s renewal. Unbeaten in a point-to-point and 14 rules starts, she has looked better than ever this season especially when winning at Leopardstown by a comfortable six-and-a-half lengths in February. There’s every reason to hope that she will become a two-time champion hurdler.
It’s very hard to oppose Honeysuckle here. She’s yet to taste defeat and it’s difficult to come up with a viable alternative especially with her mares allowance which makes her even more unopposable. She looked better than ever when winning at the Dublin Racing Festival and is set to oblige again giving the bookies a headache in the process.
Trends can be a massive help to those who prefer a statistical approach to finding winners. Whilst there are quite a few different stats to contend with, we’ve picked out a number of telling trends which lead to a fascinating contender.
Trends verdict: Appreciate It
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