2022 Champion Hurdle Tips (Tuesday, 3.30pm) – Cheltenham Festival

The Champion Hurdle is the feature race of day one at the festival, providing a test of just over two miles and eight hurdles to be jumped. It is always one of the most anticipated races of the Festival.

2018 saw Buveur D’air retrain his crown ahead of Melon and Mick Jazz, to the delight of punters who backed the strong 4/6 favourite. In 2019 Espoir D’Allen caused a shock to take the win and then in 2020 we saw a brilliant performance from Epatante to win.

Honeysuckle stole everyone’s heart with her win last year and she’s back to defend her crown and unbeaten record.

The hill is normally where the race changes as horses who come off the pace come into their own.

 

Champion Hurdle Main Contenders & Odds

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Honeysuckle

A Beginners Guide to Betting (Pre Christmas 2021): Place £20 on Moneysuckle (not a Typo), allow 5 minutes for formalities, and get £30 back. The unbeaten mare has been sent off at odds on in 9 of her last 11 starts, with the only exceptions being at the last 2 festivals. So she is unopposable, right? 

Well…….Maybe Not. 

On all known form, she is clearly the best horse in the race. She is 8lbs clear on RPRs (and that doesn’t even factor in the mares allowance) and 20/20 of the last winners of the race have had an RPR within 8 of the top-rated. She arguably looked better than ever when winning her seasonal reappearance in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse, but the Shroods angle is that she didn’t hit the line as hard at the DRF and I do think there is something in that (I’m Shrood now).

I get the sweats even thinking about backing a Mare for a Championship race at 1/2 when we know that ‘seasonal’ issues can occur at any time. Whether we want to blame that finishing effort at Christmas on Henry De Bromhead’s poor yard form (which is showing signs of life at the right time) or if we think there is a more sinister issue at play is the key question? 

While she is clearly the most likely winner, at prohibitive odds, she won’t be carrying any of my money. 

 

Appreciate It 

Willie Mullins star 8 year old has only been beaten once since his Debut and that was by the (albeit fragile) machine that is Ferny Hollow. He won a poor Supreme by 24 lengths but was very taking in the way he did so. 

The elephant in the room is that is his first start in open company and his seasonal reappearance, 2 tough hurdles to deal with. If anyone can do it, (and in fact, he has with Penhill), it’s the Maestro Willie Mullins but again he is plenty short in the betting and to me, he has huge blowout potential. While I am a fan of the horse he is not for me in the current circumstances. 

 

Teahupoo

Given the record of 5 year olds in the race added to the fact that he skipped the Cheltenham Festival last year, it’s safe to assume that Teahupoo wasn’t many people’s idea of the winner of the Champion Hurdle at the start of the year. 

The criticism could certainly be leveled that he is just beating the same horse over and over and in fact, Quilixios was for me the best horse in the race at Christmas in Limerick. 

However, what draws me to Gordon Elliot’s apparent number 1 is his similarity to another Irish 5-Year-Old improver who won a Champion hurdle at 16/1. Espoir D’Allen was a 5-year-old who had missed Cheltenham and then was hugely progressive in his first 4 starts in open company before romping home in the Champion. 

Robbie Power has said that he thinks that the horse will improve for better ground and with that and the potential to improve quickly at this stage of his career, he could maybe be the one who gives Honeysuckle most to think about. 

 

Epatante 

Given a rating of 162 when she won the race back in 2020, she was actually rated just 3lbs lower than Honeysuckle’s current mark. 

However, I was really disappointed in how she finished in the Fighting Fifth, when Not so Sleepy was unlucky not win. She was better last time out beating subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Glory and Fortune but my take is that she would have to be better than she was before to beat HS and I don’t think she is. 

 

Zanahiyr 

Went off a short price favourite (11/8) for last year’s Triumph on the basis of 2 sensational performances, but the application of the first time tongue tie was strange and indeed, he ran as if he wasn’t 100%.

This year he has been second to all the right horses but I just think he is a staying Chaser in the making and I think he will just be outpaced in this. He will be doing his best work at the finish and may run into a place. 

 

Adagio 

Coming from the race with what must be up there with most impressive form of all time (the 2021 Greatwood), Adagio certainly started off on the right note. However, a setback meant he missed intended targets at Christmas and while some were positive on his last run, I think a Champion Hurdle contender should have been able to beat Goshen getting 3lbs. 

 

Tommy’s Oscar

If Teahupoo wasn’t at the top of many people’s lists for a Champion Hurdle at the start of the year, if you had suggested Tommy’s Oscar would be getting a mention in a preview for the race, you would have been carted off to the Asylum. A horse that was beaten in a handicap off 139 doesn’t win a Champion Hurdle in the same season and while I have a lot of admiration for connections, he just isn’t good enough to feature here. 

 

Not So Sleepy 

A Grade 1 winner, in the current season available at 100/1? Seems a bit mad (the men in white coats are coming again). But that’s Not So Sleepy. A complete enigma but a guilty pleasure of mine and one that has ability. Day 1 ground will have some soft in the description and I’d be interested in this horse, particularly if he seems to be playing ball in the preliminaries. 

He is liable to do anything and while he won’t win, keep an eye out for day of race markets. Last year, one firm went 5 places in the 10 runner renewal and offered 125/1 on this horse (he duly obliged). If they do it again, I’ll certainly be hoping to take advantage of their generosity. 

 

Champion Hurdle Tips

Maybe Honeysuckle just wins but I am going to take a Chance that TEAHUPOO (8/1 EW) is still improving and can announce himself on the big stage, while at a big price, particularly with extra places, keep an eye out on what is available on NOT SO SLEEPY to hit the extended frame. 

 

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Champion Hurdle Trends

  • Age – 10 of the last 12 winners were aged between 6 and 8
  • Price – 6 of the last 12 winners were favourites/joint-favourites, 7/12 winners were in the top 3 in the betting
  • Last Run – 11/12 winners won or placed on their last run before the Champion Hurdle, 9/12 won on their last run, 9/12 ran within the last 51 days
  • 3/12 winners ran in the Irish Champion Hurdle (Leopardstown) on their last run, 2 of the 3 won, 0 placed
  • 3/12 winners ran in the Christmas Hurdle (Kempton) on their last run, 2 of the 3 won, 1 placed
  • 3/12 winners ran in the Contenders Hurdle (Sandown) on their last run, 3 of the 3 won
  • Previous Course Form – 10/12 winners had at least 1 previous run at Cheltenham, 5/12 had at least 1 previous win at Cheltenham
  • Previous Distance Form – 10/12 winners had at least 7 runs over 15-17 furlongs, 10/12 had at least 5 wins over 15-17 furlongs
  • Previous Hurdle Form – 10/12 winners had at least 6 previous runs over hurdles, 11/12 had at least 4 wins over hurdles
  • Rating – 10/12 winners were rated 162 or higher
  • Grade 1 Wins – 10/12 winners had at least 1 previous grade 1 win
  • Season Form – 11/12 winners had at least 2 runs that season, 12/12 had at least 1 win that season

 

Champion Hurdle Last 10 Winners

Year Horse Jockey Trainer
2009 Punjabi Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson
2010 Binocular A P McCoy Nicky Henderson
2011 Hurricane Fly Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2012 Rock On Ruby Noel Fehily Paul Nicholls
2013 Hurricane Fly Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2014 Jezki Barry Geraghty John Harrington
2015 Faugheen Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2016 Annie Power Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2017 Buveur D’Air Noel Fehily Nicky Henderson
2018 Buveur D’Air Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson
2019 Espoir D’Allen Mark Walsh Gavin Cromwell
2020 Epatante Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson

 

Champion Hurdle 2020 Result

1st – Epatante (2/1)

2nd – Sharjah (16/1)

3rd – Darver Star (17/2)

4th – Cilaos Emery (7/1)

 

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2022 Cheltenham Festival Tips