Irish Champion Hurdle preview and 25-1 Cheltenham Festival tip


This weekend’s racing is something to savour. The Dublin Racing Festival is one of the premier National Hunt meetings of the season, with eight Grade 1 races across the weekend.

We’ll have horse racing tips for all the action, including the Irish Champion Hurdle. That’s the race I’ll be focusing on and it’s the feature contest on Saturday. Won by the likes of Istabraq, Brave Inca, Hardy Eustace and Hurricane Fly, the winner will join illustrious company.

There is one horse who sticks out to me, however, and I’m surprised he hasn’t been installed as favourite. You can find out all his details below, including a 25-1 tip for the Cheltenham Festival!

Sharjah on the charge!

Willie Mullins has won the Irish Champion Hurdle a record six times, five times with the remarkable Hurricane Fly and latterly with “The Machine”, Faugheen. He looks to have another fantastic chance five years on, with Sharjah returning to his favoured Leopardstown.

He made it three wins in the course and distance Matheson Hurdle when last seen, recording an emphatic victory after travelling much the best under regular rider Patrick Mullins. In a race where nothing else got into the race from the rear division, his effort can be upgraded.

The expected rain throughout the week is no hindrance to his chances, winning as he liked on soft ground over Christmas. He’s the top-rated horse in the line-up and although he has to concede seven pounds to Honeysuckle, he likely has the class to do just that.

He possesses a fantastic change of gear and that may prove the difference. There is no doubting Honeysuckle’s class and given that she won this race twelve months ago, she clearly doesn’t lack speed at the distance. That being said, Sharjah is simply the faster finisher, and looks set to sweep on by in the closing stages.

Of the remainder, the biggest danger to the front two is likely to be Abacadabras. He defeated Saint Roi at Punchestown back in November and although he ran flat in Matheson Hurdle behind Sharjah, he had mucus in his trachea post race. He’s capable of far better than that, so don’t rule him out at an each-way price.

Leopardstown to Cheltenham?

Currently the 9/1 second-favourite for the Champion Hurdle, Sharjah’s price will shorten if he can secure another Grade 1 success. He ran extremely well in last year’s Champion Hurdle, finding only Epatante too strong, and he looks set to arrive in much better form twelve months on.

William Hill, through #YourOdds, are offering 25/1 for Sharjah to win the Irish Champion Hurdle and go on to Cheltenham glory. That could turn out to be the value play, given that he’s a general 2/1 to win on Saturday.

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Irish Champion Hurdle Trends

  • 9/10 – Were the starting price favourite
  • 9/10 – Rated 160 or higher
  • 8/10 – Previous course winner
  • 7/10 – Won the Matheson Hurdle on their prior start
  • 6/10 – Trained by Willie Mullins

With Hurricane Fly winning five of the last 10 renewals, the trends need to be taken with a small pinch of salt. That being said, Sharjah is also the trends pick. There is potential that he’ll go off favourite and is one of two horses rated 160 or higher.

An empathic winner of the Matheson Hurdle when last seen, he’s trained by Willie Mullins and has excellent claims at his beloved Leopardstown.

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