2018 Irish Champion Hurdle Preview
The Irish Champion Hurdle (Saturday 3 February 2018) is run over 2 miles and 8 hurdles at Leopardstown, and this year forms part of Leopardstown’s new initiative the Dublin Festival. It was first run in 1950, and has been won by horses who have gone on to win other high-profile races such as the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup, and even the Grand National. Hurricane Fly won the race on 5 consecutive occasions, whilst Istabraq won it four-times, and four other horses have won it twice.
Winners have been aged 6 to 11
Winners have been rated between 143 and 175
The last 8 favourites have won
SP’s of the winners have ranged from 1/6 to 10/3
Willie Mullins has trained 6 of the last 7 winners
Henry De Bromhead has trained 2 of the last 10 winners
Won the 2015 Champion Hurdle before winning the 2016 renewal of this race, after which he was forced to have 22 months off the track. Returned looking every bit as good as he was when winning at Punchestown in November, but was pulled-up here at Leopardstown in December. Connections couldn’t find anything wrong with him after that flop, which is a worry, but he would have been long odds-on for this if he hadn’t of flopped there.
Ran in the 2017 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle having had just one run for Willie Mullins, and ran respectably in second. Won on his seasonal debut but, as he finished third behind My Tent Or Your and The New One at Cheltenham last time, he’s nowhere near as good as his stable Faugheen yet.
The reigning Champion Hurdler would be a major player if allowed to take his chance, but the market suggests that is unlikely. The fact the owner’s Defi Du Seuil has been put forward as a probable runner makes it even more unlikely.
Defi De Seuil
Was by far the best of the 4-year-olds last season, winning at both the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National Meeting at Aintree. Was a big disappointment on his seasonal debut at Acot though, and you have to go back to 1992 to find the last 5-year-old to win an Irish Champion Hurdle.
Was considered a lightly-raced improving handicap hurdler before he won the Ryanair Hurdle over course and distance at Christmas. However, he took advantage of Faugheen being pulled-up there, and the competition wasn’t that strong.
This season’s hype horse is being talked about as though he’s going to be the next Irish superstar, and his entry here obviously shows the high opinion connections have of him. However, Gordon Elliott’s assistant trainer stated recently that he Samcro would run in a novice hurdle at the Dublin Festival.
With Buveur D’Air unlikely to turn up, the race looks at the mercy of Faugheen if connections are happy that he is back in the sort of form that saw him win at Punchestown in November. He was sent-off at 2/5 at Punchestown and, as he will probably go off at that sort of price if he runs, the available even-money is tempting – but it does come with obvious risks attached.