Champion Hurdle – Race Preview
Tuesday sees the start of the four-day Cheltenham Festival, the highlight of the jumps racing season in the UK. The feature race on the first day is the Champion Hurdle, the blue-riband event for hurdlers in the UK and Ireland. The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 event, run over a distance of two miles with a total of eight hurdles jumped. Thirteen runners are set to go to post as they seek to add themselves to an illustrious list of winners alongside a winners cheque of almost £250,000.
The current favourite is the Willie Mullins trained Annie Power who was supplemented for the race last week. A winner of 13 of her 15 starts, she comes into the race on the back of only one run so far this season, an easy victory at odds of 1/20 when taking on two much lower class rivals last month. Normally campaigned over further, the two mile Champion Hurdle trip may be too sharp for her and at the current prices, she looks one to take on.
Willie Mullins is also represented with Nichols Canyon and Sempre Medici. Nichols Canyon has been on upward curve over the last year, including inflicting Faugheen’s only defeat back in November before winning a Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown in December. Last seen when a disappointing third in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January, Nichols Canyon comes into the race fresh and if allowed an easy lead he could well take all the catching. Sempri Medici is very much the Mullins third-string and is unlikely to enjoy the drying ground on Tuesday.
The New One is a Cheltenham Festival favourite but it may well be that his best chance of winning the Champion Hurdle is behind him. Fifth last year behind the indomitable Faugheen, who misses this year’s renewal due to injury, The New One was also third in 2014 behind Jezki. This year’s race is less competitive than in recent years but it may well be that The New One finds one too good.
Leading UK trainer Nicky Henderson is represented by My Tent Or Yours and Peace & Co. My Tent Or Yours finished runner-up in the race in 2014 but has not been seen on the racecourse since April 2014. Asking a horse to win the Champion Hurdle after over 700 days off the track is a near on impossible task and Henderson commented at the weekend that he has doubts that it can happen. Henderson instead highlighted Peace & Co as his best chance in the race, who following winning last seasons Triumph Hurdle, has struggled for form so far this year.
Annie Power is the current 3.25 (9/4) favourite for the Champion Hurdle with The New One available at 5.5 (11/2). Nichols Canyon is 7 (6/1), My Tent Or Yours 11 (10/1) and Peace & Co 23 (22/1). The horse racing betting tip for Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle is Nichols Canyon at 7 (6/1).
By: Scott McGlynn