The 2018 Champion Hurdle is now little more than hours away, with Cheltenham opens its doors for a four day National Hunt racing bonanza. The going will be Soft, but the action will be all class and below we take a look through the field for the big race on Day 1 of the Festival…
Final Field subject to change, as declarations are made at 10am Sunday. Prices correct top or average ante-post industry prices at time of publish.
BUVEUR D’AIR 8/15
The 2017 Champion Hurdle winner returns on the back of a low-key but solid build up season. He looked good in the Contenders’ Hurdle at Sandown, but hasn’t been tested at all really since last March. Could that take the edge of him? Other than this small question mark, the Champ is very difficult to oppose and will take all the beating under Barry Geraghty.
A thoroughly likeable hurdler who travels well and has a lot of talent. He’s earned his place in the field through his placed efforts recently, but he is without a win since November 2016 and will fall just short of what’s required to win a race of this nature.
CHARLI PARCS 80/1
May not run as he needs good ground. Disappointing profile overall and impossible task here.
This lad has improved by a stone or so in the past year and arrives on the back of a career best win in the Kingwell Hurdle. Versatile, in-form and won’t be phased by a strong pace. If his jumping holds up, a big run wouldn’t surprise.
It’s now 3 years since Faugheen won the 2015 Champion Hurdle. Winning it now is a taller order, but then he is a great hurdler. Needs to show his best here, or is likely to be retired. Everyone would love to see one last hurrah from this wonderful horse. The vibes are generally good about his homework, soft ground won’t be a problem and he still has to rate a major player.
IDENTITY THIEF 66/1
May or may not take his chance. Chasing hasn’t gone to plan, 6th in this behind Annie Power in 2016, no easier task 2 years on.
JOHN CONSTABLE 50/1
Strong travelling slick jumper with lots of ability, but this won’t be his ground and for that reason he’s likely to be found out quickly when the race for the line begins.
Hugely talented chestnut. A solid 2nd in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and has generally trained on quite encouragingly, but he fluffed his lines at Leopardstown last time out and has some soul searching to do on the back of that. Could hit the frame at tidy odds if on song, but he needs to improve.
MICK JAZZ 25/1
Very solid yardstick and in other years he may well be a great each way bet, but there is a fair bit of strength at the top of the market and despite all his consistency, Mick Jazz is yet to fully breach the 160+ barrier over hurdles, which he’d need to and then some to hit the places. He is a good horse though, don’t be surprised if he runs a very respectable race.
MY TENT OR YOURS 10/1
This fantastic servant has chased home Jezki, Annie Power and Buveur D’Air to be 2nd in no less than three Champion Hurdle hurdles and arrives on the back of a much deserved success at Cheltenham last time out. He could easily hit the frame again and can act on soft, but he is a much better horse on decent ground and could be found out here.
WICKLOW BRAVE 14/1
A very talented dual-purpose horse that could be a big player here. He beat My Tent Or Yours and Arctic Fire to land the Punchestown Champion Hurdle last April, will handle the ground and is a very interesting contender.
Speaking of interesting contenders, how about this mental but gifted racehorse. Yorkhill has the talent to go to the top over hurdles and fences, but he’s wired to the moon and it’s hard to know which version of him will turn up. The fact is he’s been beaten 140 lengths on his last two starts, and if he can win a Champion Hurdle on the back of a prep like that, it’ll be a minor miracle.
VERDANA BLUE 50/1
Neat mare with lots of positives to her chances in any hurdle race, and she gets weight from the boys here, but she’d be more of a Livewire “outsider” if the ground was really quick…it’ll be closer to the opposite.
Call us Romantics or dreamers, but the idea of Faugheen rolling back the years with one more glimpse of his best for the fans really fills the senses. Buveur D’Air will be very hard to deny and may win this easily, but if Faugheen is back on song, he will make them go a bit from the front. Wicklow Brave/Mick Jazz/Melon are likely to be those pitching in for 3rd place, with perhaps My Tent Or Yours in the conversation for a while too.
2 Buveur D’Air
3 Wicklow Brave/Mick Jazz/Melon
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