3.30 Unibet Champion Hurdle

Tuesday 10 March  |  Age: 4yo+  |  Prize: £470,250

The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race and is the feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, which is also known as Champion Day. Open to horses aged four years or older, the Champion Hurdle is run on the Old Course over a distance of about two miles and half a furlong (2 miles and 87 yards).

THE premium event of the first day is normally the Champion Hurdle but if we're being honest there just isn't the same anticipation and excitement over the race this year. 

There isn't an obvious standout candidate and there doesn't appear to be the same strength in depth as there usually would be.  We might of course end up being surprised and one or two of these could end up being top class but the current form would suggest not.

Epatante is likely to be favourite and rightly so – she has a bit of class and has only been beaten once over hurdles, when she didn't perform in last year's mares novice hurdle.

She gets a mares weight allowance which makes her the clear pick on ratings but I suspect the race won't be run to suit her turn of pace and will end up being a real test of stamina.

For that reason I am siding with DARVER STAR as a tentative each way selection at 12-1. Quite a few bookies are paying 4 places each way so make sure you get that.  He will enjoy the test of stamina and the ground will be no problem for him.

His two defeats this season have come at the hands of Honeysuckle who would surely be favourite here if she was lining up and Envoi Allen (and Abracadabras) in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse.  He wouldn't need to improve much at all from those performances to be involved here in my opinion.

It would also be fantastic to see a horse owned by a syndicate winning the biggest hurdle race of all.

I wish them all the very best.

Recommended bet

PENTLAND HILLS has been a weak finisher on desperate ground this winter and Henderson’s decision to opt for a soft palate operation suggests he is looking for an extra edge in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Pentland Hills won last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with plenty of authority and the fact that no previous Champion Hurdle winner goes to post this season gives the race an open look.

His second at Haydock last time doesn’t read particularly well but he pulled like a train sitting off a moderate pace. This bigger field/stronger gallop is what Pentland Hills has been crying out for this season.

Epatante has been all the rage since running away with the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and reinforces Henderson’s strong hand.

Her mares’ allowance could prove invaluable but she did flop here 12 months ago, which raises doubts about her effectiveness on an undulating circuit.

Call Me Lord’s stamina could kick in on a deep surface and he looks a lively each-way outsider.

Recommended bet

In what appears to be a weak renewal, we have got ourselves a very competitive race with no horse with the one piece of outstanding form separating them from the rest.

You’d probably have to say Epatante has the best form, with her good win at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle. At the prices she’s currently at (10/3) I’d like to find value elsewhere, as she was favourite for the Mares Novice Hurdle last year and she bombed out.

I have a small EW Antepost bet on Coeur Sublime, and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him EW for the race tomorrow. He’s had a wind surgery after his below par run last time out.

I probably got over excited when he hosed up in the Grade 2 at Down Royal before Christmas, where he won by 15 lengths. The softer the ground, the better his chances become. Gordon has said he’s been working well at home, and he’s pleased with where he’s at.

My selection for the Champion Hurdle would be SUPASUNDAE. They are going to go a good clip in this race, and with the ground being on the soft side it will find out the horses who don’t have the stamina.

Supasundae stays 3m, and is a Grade 1 winner over 2m 4/5f, so he will definitely be staying on when others are feeling sorry for themselves. He doesn’t lack pace, he’s beat Faugheen over 2m in the past.

His recent return in the Irish Champion Hurdle was a quality run, where he finished 4th after 274 days off the track, and he’ll strip fitter for this. 10/1 with 4 places on offer looks a nice EW bet.

Recommended bet

  • Supasundae 1pt e/w 11-1 (Bet365)

The Unibet Champions Hurdle features on the Gambla Preview Podcast with the Voice of Value, where all Championship Races are discussed.

Back on February 11th we took an early look at the Champion Hurdle and reviewed the key conteders back then.

Read our full Champion Hurdle Ante-post Preview

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Distance: 2m 87y
Type: Hurdle
Class: 1
Track: Turf
No
Silks
Runner
Jockey/Trainer
17
Epatante
1/119-11
J:B J Geraghty
T: N J Henderson
ADD TO SLIP
11/4

3
Cilaos Emery
2/1-11F1
J:P Townend
T: W P Mullins
ADD TO SLIP
13/2

12
Pentland Hills
111-52
J:Nico de Boinville
T: N J Henderson
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15/2

16
Supasundae
2271-24
J:R M Power
T: Mrs J Harrington
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10/1

7
Darver Star
111132
J:Jonathan Moore
T: G P Cromwell
ADD TO SLIP
12/1

4
Coeur Sublime
F423-13
J:D N Russell
T: G Elliott
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14/1

14
Sharjah
11B-416
J:Mr P W Mullins
T: W P Mullins
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14/1

2
Call Me Lord
1/73-212
J:James Bowen
T: N J Henderson
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16/1

1
Ballyandy
3-64231
J:Sam Twiston-Davies
T: N A Twiston-Davies
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20/1

8
Fusil Raffles
121-11P
J:D A Jacob
T: N J Henderson
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20/1

15
Silver Streak
235-132
J:Adam Wedge
T: Evan Williams
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25/1

5
Cornerstone Lad
131-113
J:Henry Brooke
T: Micky Hammond
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28/1

11
Not So Sleepy
415-110
J:J J Burke
T: H Morrison
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28/1

13
Petit Mouchoir
4-44223
J:Rachael Blackmore
T: H De Bromhead
ADD TO SLIP
28/1

6
Darasso
2511-42
J:M P Walsh
T: J P O'Brien
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40/1

9
Gumball
9-31260
J:R Johnson
T: P J Hobbs
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100/1

10
Le Patriote
11-1484
J:Charlie Hammond
T: Dr R D P Newland
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200/1

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