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Cheltenham Festival 2021: Champion Hurdle Preview



Cheltenham Festival 2021: Champion Hurdle Preview
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Champion Hurdle Preview: Honeysuckle to remain unbeaten


Cheltenham Festival 2021: Champion Hurdle Preview

The Champion Hurdle is the first Championship race of the Cheltenham Festival and is known as the most prestigious hurdling event in the National Hunt calendar. Its list of winners features many of the most highly regarded hurdlers in racing history. As a result of this, winners of this race include Istabraq, Persian War and Lanzarote, of whom all have races named in their honour.

Notable winners in recent years of this race include Binocular, Hurricane Fly, Faugheen, Buveur D’Air and Epatante, who re-opposes again this year.  


Epatante (4/1)

The logical place to start would be with last year’s winner Epatante, who is looking to win her second consecutive Champion Hurdle. The seven-year-old is a proven top-class hurdler on her day. She won this race last year and achieved big race success in the likes of the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. 

However, she disappointed last time out in a race she had won comfortably the year before, The Christmas Hurdle. You could argue that she needed the run that day and was overturned as the 1/5 favourite, beaten easily by the consistent Silver Streak. Baring that defeat last time out, she merits a significant chance if back to her best. Victory would provide Nicky Henderson with his ninth win in the race and is Henderson’s only representative this year. 


Goshen (9/2)

Goshen is interesting and looks for Festival redemption after throwing away last’s years JCB Triumph Hurdle by unseating jockey Jamie Moore at the final flight when well clear of the field. After an unsuccessful stint on the flat, he then was set for his seasonal reappearance over hurdles in the International Hurdle. However, he finished a tailed last place and left the Moore’s dazed by what went wrong with their horse. Seventy days later and on his most recent start, he bounced back to form emphatically, dominating the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton by 22 lengths.  

The five-year-old has proven he has the class to complete in these Grade 1 races but needs to prove he can run consistently. He will also be giving a valuable 7lb away to the mares at the head of the market, which only makes his job harder.


Each-way claims

As far as the market is concerned, the dangers to the first three in the market would be the Mrs Denise Foster trained Abacadabras, who is under a new license from Gordon Elliott and representing the Willie Mullins stable Sharjah. The latter was a dominant winner of the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown last December but was since a well-beaten third behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. The eight-year-old was second in last year’s Champion Hurdle behind Epatante but would need to improve on this season’s form to be competitive. 

Abacadabras is a similar type to Sharjah. He finished a narrow second in last years Supreme Novices Hurdle, beaten a head by this years Arkle favourite, Shishkin. Although the seven-year-old has only managed to win one of his four starts this season, he has shown great character but looks to be outclassed by some of his rivals. He finished a well-beaten second behind Honeysuckle on his last start in the Irish Champion Hurdle and would need to be able to reverse the form to be competitive in this race. 

Finally, one more to note would be the Mullins trained James Du Berlais, who has eye-catching form in France. He was beaten a narrow second in the Prix Renaud du Vivier Grade 1 Hurdle at Auteuil last time out. However, we are yet to see him run outside of France, so predicting how he’ll fair here would be tricky. Mullins is known to import horses from France to be competitive in a Graded contest, so it would be no shock if he could get him tuned up and ready first time out.


Honeysuckle (7/4)

However, Honeysuckle is the one to beat and is currently sat at the head of the market for the bang inform Henry De Bromhead team. This superstar mare is now ten from ten and looks to put her unbeaten record on the line. The seven-year-olds most impressive victory would be in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time out, where she beat Abacadabras by ten lengths. Three of the runners she beat that day look to reverse the form in this contest. However, she seems to have her mark on the Irish contenders this year and will have her eye’s firmly on the British hopefuls Epatante and Goshen. 

She has proven Cheltenham Form beating Benie Des Dieux in the Mares Hurdle last year at the Cheltenham Festival. The De Bromhead team will be doing a rain dance to get the best out of her but will handle the quicker ground nevertheless. With Epatante having a poor run leading up to this competition and getting a valuable 7lb from the unreliable Goshen, Honeysuckle looks to have too much class on the day and is the one to beat.


Sporting Ferret’s Tip  

Champion Hurdle (15:05), Cheltenham, Tuesday 16th March – Honeysuckle to win at 7/4.


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Ash is a second-year Sports Journalism student studying at Solent University in Southampton. He follows a variety of sports but is extremely passionate about Horse Racing.


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