Annie Power? Faugheen? Which of the Rich Ricci-owned champions will turn up in March? Or can one of the younger pretenders steal their crown? There are so many questions to answer ahead of this year’s Tuesday feature at the Cheltenham Festival…
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