Yes, this year’s Champion Hurdle lacks quality.
But I don’t understand the misery from racing fans regarding the race.
It may not have a top notch animal in there but this race is a puzzle for punters to solve. If we can solve it, then we’re getting paid out at a decent price, too. Stop your winging and go find the winner. It’s what racing is all about.
We’ve a long, hard look at the race and have come out the other side with the opinion that the winner is easily found. It’s Yanworth. Here’s why…
Strongest form in the book
Previous Cheltenham form is an angle always undervalued by the market. In Yanworth’s case it seems people are forgetting he put up a huge performance to chase down in vein Yorkhill in last year’s Neptune, which is always a strong guide for the next season’s Champion Hurdle.
That race also came at a time where trainer Alan King’s runners were performing below-par – I’d be backer of Yanworth if the two met again over 2m5f at some stage.
The Christmas Hurdle performance, where he charged past The New One on a sharp track which wouldn’t have been ideal, suggests to me that the horse has improved this year.
He was very, very strong at the line at Kempton, which should transmit well to the Champion Hurdle as it’s a stiffer test than the Kempton race.
The pace will be strong
Some years the Champion Hurdle can turn into a sprint – no-one takes them along at a good clip and horses with the sharp turn of foot have plenty of petrol left in the closing stages.
If that happens this year, Yanworth will get beat as it will blunt his staying power.
However, the make-up of the race brings forward the argument that it will be run at a truly run gallop.
Petit Mouchoir and The New One will look to blast from the front, which will only further suit Yanworth.
Opposition thin on the ground
When you have a horse leading the market like Buveur D’Air, who has yet to win a Graded race over hurdles in all age company and has no really impressive Cheltenham form in the book, it makes Yanworth’s chance seem all the more solid.
Nicky Henderson’s charge has so much to prove, it’s crazy to think that punters have made him favourite.
Petit Mouchoir brings the same formlines in as Buvuer D’Air and is easy to rule out at 11/2 while Brain Power has done all his winning in handicaps.
He’d have finished out with the washing if he ran in last year’s Neptune.
Limini is arguably the most interesting of the opposition if she’s supplemented but again, her form is well behind Petit Mouchoir and Buveur D’Air last season and you’re having to bank on her having improved – which is possible – to make her a serious player.
It’s Yanworth’s race to lose. And come Champion Hurdle day, punters will realise that. The 7/2 will be all gone.
He’s a 9/4 shot. Back it now.
Who won the Champion Hurdle in 2016?
Due to the shock injury in mid-February of last year´s winner Faugheen, and then later also his stablemate Artic Fire, who finished runner-up to him, it was a substandard Champion Hurdle last season. Nonetheless, it was still an utterly fascinating contest.
Annie Power made it third time lucky at the Festival, gaining full compensation for her final-flight fall in the mares´ hurdle on this day last year, and proving a more than able substitute for brilliant stablemate Faugheen.
Supplemented for this as an after thought, the hood she wore when coming back with an easy success at Punchestown last month was dispensed with and she settled fine out in front. She became the first female to land this since Flakey Dove in 1994.
How to find the winner of the Champion Hurdle?
Much like the Supreme Novices Hurdle, getting a recent run to blow away the cobwebs is a key trait for a serious Champion Hurdle contender. Only one winner since 1993 didn’t have a prep race during the same calendar year as did Annie Power last season.
Ignore all five-year-olds as they have a shocking record of 1-95 since 1985 – their lack of experience counts for a lot against the battle hardened older horses.
Ante-post tip for the Champion Hurdle?
This is tough. Faugheen and Annie Power, due to being in the same ownership, both won’t run, so Willie Mullins has a decision to make about who to send where. With the question marks at the head of the betting the smart play looks to back last year’s Neptune runner-up YANWORTH. The Alan King stable wasn’t firing last year and this horse looks the real deal.
With the stable in better form I’m expecting him to go very close at 9/1.
Champion Hurdle 2017 Trends:
No unplaced horse from the previous year’s renewal has won for 22 years
Since 1985, 93 of the 94 five-year-olds that have run were beaten
83 of the 85 winners in the history of the race were 9 or younger
25 of the last 26 International Hurdle winners have been beaten
22 of the last 24 Christmas Hurdle winners have been beaten
19 of the last 21 winners had a prep race that calendar year
26 of the last 32 winners won last time out
13 of the last 17 winners were either Irish trained or trained by Nicky Henderson
21 of the last 31 winners finished in the first 4 at last season’s Festival
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle has featured 3 winners and 5 placed horses in the last 8 years