The Champion Hurdle remains the focal point of the first day of the Cheltenham Festival as the quickest hurdlers in England and Ireland do battle for the most prestigious hurdling crown of them all.
8 hurdles have to be jumped, and the famous Cheltenham hill has to be climbed, and for all the horses that have returned to claim the crown again the following year – there are many more that haven’t.
All of which means there’s no better horse to start our ante-post preview with than last year’s winner Faugheen.
The current Champion remains unbeaten after heading a Willie Mullins 1-2-3 last year but, whilst he probably won’t be anywhere near the currently available 11/10 should he line-up, that sort of price is of little interest at this stage of the season.
Peace and Co 10/1
Come the big day he’ll be bidding to become only the second 5-year-old to win the Champion Hurdle in the last 20 years, and that already makes the 10/1 look too short. However he did look special on occasions last year, and the Henderson stable were never firing on all cylinders.
Arctic Fire 12/1
Last year’s Champion Hurdle runner-up has finished either 2nd or 3rd on his last 7 completed starts, and has an annoying habit of travelling brilliantly but not quite finding enough. Would benefit from a strong end-to-end gallop, and still has lots of potential improvement to come.
The price of last year’s champion novice hurdler varies between 5/1 and 16/1 with the different bookies, which highlights both his potential and the fact that connections have stated he’ll probably go over fences this season. The 16/1 would look big if his chase career doesn’t work out, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t.
My Tent Or Yours 20/1
The 2013 runner-up missed last season through injury, but hasn’t quite got up the hill in the two festival races he’s contested.
The New One 20/1
If trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has sorted his stable star’s well-documented back problems out, he’ll hopefully jump better than in the last two renewals. Proved his well-being by notching-up a hat-trick in his usual season opener, and has now won 12 of his 17 hurdle starts.
As most of last year’s top novice hurdlers are earmarked for chasing, and 5-year-old have a poor overall record, the values looks to be in backing two horses each-way who have been placed in the race before. Arctic Fire looks sure to be placed if arriving in the same form as last year (and still has room for improvement), whilst The New One could yet prove his trainer’s faith right if his ailments have been sorted out. A place for either would make us a small profit, and either could take the crown if Faugheen doesn’t show-up.
1.25 points each-way Arctic Fire @ 12/1 (Paddy Power, Ladbrokes) ¼ odds 3 places
0.75 points each-way The New One @ 20/1 (Various) ¼ odds 3 places
*Having tipped Sizing John to win the Arkle last week, it was great to see him put in a sound performance on his chasing debut – and his price shortened from 20/1 to 16/1.
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