The Irish Champion Hurdle (15:30 Leopardstown) was first established in 1950, and all the 6 different horses to have won it in the last 10 years have tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival at some point in their career. Sizing Europe won a Champion Chase, Solwhit a World Hurdle, whilst Brave Inca, Hardy Eustace, Faugheen and 5-time winner Hurricane Fly all won at least one Champion Hurdle.
Winners have been aged 4 to 11, but no 5-year-old has won since 1992, whilst Willie Mullins has trained the last 6 winners, with Ruby Walsh riding the last 5, and also riding Brave Inca to success for the now retired Colm Murphy.
Faugheen, winner of 12 of his 13 races for Willie Mullins including the 2016 renewal, would have been a strong favourite for the race, however he’s a late non-runner.
Therefore, just 4 runners are set to go to post for the 2017 Irish Champion Hurdle.
Won twice over course and distance, however he was well-held by both Petite Mouchoir and Nicholls Canyon in the Ryan Air Hurdle here at Christmas, and it’s difficult to see him reversing the form. 5-year-olds also have a poor record in the race.
Won off a mark of 97 on the flat, and won the Triumph Hurdle in decent style last season. Not looked the same horse since, and may need genuinely good or fast ground to be seen at his best, which probably still wouldn’t be anywhere near good enough.
Winner of 10 of his 23 races, and has also picked-up loads of prize-money finishing placed behind some of the Willie Mullins trained superstars in these grade-1 races. He remains the only horse to have beaten Faugheen, but was beaten comprehensively by the re-opposing Petite Mouchoir at Christmas. However, he was much more fancied in the market that day, and he could easily have run below par.
Looked quite an average novice hurdler until finishing runner-up at both the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals last season. However, he was a big talking horse before this season’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle in which he was going well when falling. Looked a much-improved horse when beating Nicholls Canyon at Christmas, and this former Willie Mullins trained horse could ironically be the horse that spoils the 7-timer for Mullins.
2017 Irish Champion Hurdle Preview
The late defection of Faugheen is a real shame, but that means there’ll be another new name on the trophy, which should be either Petite Mouchoir or Nicholls Canyon. It will be the former if they run to the same level of form as at Christmas but, with Nicholls Canyon being sent-off at 2/5 that day and Petite Mouchoir at 6/1, there’s reason to think that Nicholls Canyon didn’t run-up to his best. Therefore, with Petite Mouchoir now priced-up at 4/7, Nicholls Canyon looks the value-bet at 5/2.
2017 Irish Champion Hurdle Tip
Nicholls Canyon @ 5/2 Black Type, Bet365, SkyBet