The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on Tuesday – Lewis Tomlinson takes you through the card.
Day 1 featured races quick links:
13:20 Supreme Novices Hurdle
13:55 Arkle Trophy
15:05 Champion Hurdle
15:40 Mares Hurdle
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Champion Hurdle Horse by Horse Review
1. Abacadabras (Jack Kennedy/Denise Foster)
A Grade 1 winning novice hurdler last season and was only just nabbed on the line by Shishkin in the Supreme here last March. He’s made a solid, if unspectacular, transition to open company this year, having gained another Grade 1 when beating Aintree-bound Jason The Militant in the Morgiana back in November, though looked to be put in his place when a ten length second to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time. That being said, the return to Cheltenham, where he has also finished fourth in a Champion Bumper, will suit, and he has each-way claims.
2. Aspire Tower (Robbie Power/Henry De Bromhead)
A good, if not top class, juvenile hurdler last season and fared well on his first Cheltenham appearance when second in the Triumph. He’s improved this season, and caused a minor upset when beating Abacadabras first time out in the WKD Hurdle before an even better performance when second to Sharjah in the Matheson over Christmas. Five-year-olds generally struggle in their first season in open company, but Aspire Tower has progressed well again this season. He’ll need a major career best to win this, though.
3. Goshen (Jamie Moore/Gary Moore)
Ran his opposition ragged in the Triumph last season before a cruel twist of fate saw him catch his fore and hind together after jumping the last and unseat Jamie Moore. Things didn’t go to plan either when soundly beaten in a farcical running the International back here over Christmas, but he looked well back to his best when routing Song For Someone by twenty-two lengths in the Kingwell last time out. He won’t get things as much his own way here, but if able to sustain his gallop in the manner he did in the Triumph last season he has a fine chance.
4. James Du Berlais (Daryl Jacob/Willie Mullins)
A fascinating contender from the Willie Mullins camp. James Du Berlais is unraced outside of France, where he claimed two Grade 3 prizes for Robert Collet in 2020, including when producing an impressive victory at Auteuil in October. Five-year-olds don’t generally have the best record here, and is probably just best watched on his debut for his new yard in a race of this depth.
5. Not So Sleepy (Jonathan Burke/Hughie Morrison)
Above average on the flat and has reached a similar level over hurdles so far, winning back to back renewals of the competitive Betfair Exchange Trophy handicap at Ascot over the last two seasons. Pulled up in this last year after being badly inconvenienced by the standing start. He’s a free-goer who wants to bowl along at the head of affairs and it’s hard to see being able to dominate from the front in a race this pace-heavy. Unproven in Graded company and he’s biting off more than he chew here.
6. Saldier (Danny Mullins/Willie Mullins)
Fragile, but looked a horse of considerable potential as a juvenile and confirmed himself as a top prospect when winning the Morgiana early last season. He was sidelined with injury for the rest of the year, and there’s been very few positives to take out of his season this time around, soundly beaten in both the Matheson and Irish Champion Hurdle on his two starts this campaign. Needs to show something entirely different to reach the frame here.
7. Sharjah (Paul Townend/Willie Mullins)
Runner-up in this last season and consistently one of the top two-mile hurdlers across the last three seasons. Gained a deserved hat-trick of Matheson Hurdles at Christmas but didn’t match that when behind Honeysuckle and Abacadabras in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Tends to be potentially ridden so could benefit from a possible pace collapse if the numerous front-runners in this field go at each other too hard. An each-way player once again.
8. Silver Streak (Tom O’Brien/Evan Williams)
Likeable and consistent grey who has been better than ever this season, winning a Listed contest at Kempton before taking advantage of Epatante’s underperformance to gain his first Grade 1 victory in the Christmas Hurdle on his most recent start. Unlucky not to win the International here in December as well, and has finished third and sixth in the two most recent renewals of this. This year’s race looks deeper, but he’s raised his game this year and has solid place claims again.
9. Epatante (Aidan Coleman/Nicky Henderson)
A dominant winner of this race last season and confirmed herself as the undisputed queen of the division when producing a marvellous turn of foot to win the Fighting Fifth on her seasonal comeback. Never looked comfortable in defence of her Christmas Hurdle title last time out, and suddenly now has a question to answer. Should go close to defending her crown if back on song, but it’s hard to be 100% certain about the form she arrives here in.
10. Honeysuckle (Rachael Blackmore/Henry De Bromhead)
Outstanding mare who remains unbeaten after ten rules starts. Connections opted to run an extended trip in the Mares’ Hurdle last season rather than have a tilt at the Champion Hurdle, and she had previously looked better suited by an intermediate trip.
However, her defence of the Irish Champion Hurdle last time out was a career best performance, dictating from the front and blowing away the likes of Abacadabras and Sharjah without ever looking out of her comfort zone. That took her tally of Grade 1s to six, and having looked pacier and more accurate over her hurdles than ever last time, she is the one they all have to beat
CHAMPION HURDLE VERDICT
Unbeaten mare Honeysuckle (5/2) looks an improved proposition this season and is fancied to extend her winning streak to eleven.
Epatante is the biggest danger if back to her best, whilst the pace should suit Sharjah and Abacadabras, both of whom are couple of hitting the first three.