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3.05 Unibet Champion Hurdle
Tuesday 16 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).
A few things have changed since my original preview of the race 6 weeks ago, not least the almost certain inclusion of Honeysuckle who was thought to be favouring the Mares race at that time.
We also now have a rejuvenated Goshen to contend with who was fantastic last time out and has certainly staked his claim.
Of the three at the top of the market (reigning champ Epatante being the other) I would favour Honeysuckle who remains unbeaten in her career and really looked the part last time out.
A bit of rain would probably be ideal for her and she should be able to travel at top pace for the full two mile trip whilst others might not be capable of that.
They are likely to go at a strong pace from the off with Goshen odds-on to go full pelt and possibly one or two others. I think that could leave things open to a horse coming from off the pace and finishing well.
The one that I like for the job is SHARJAH who finished second last year. This looks a better race than last year no doubt but a similar ride on Sharjah could reap dividends if they go very fast out in front.
He is a class act and although his regular jockey Patrick Mullins won't be able to ride it is now Paul Townend who takes the ride which arguably could be a bonus.
SkyBet have just gone 4 places which is a real edge to take advantage of.
Voice of Value's Champion Hurdle Tip
- Sharjah ew at 14/1 with SkyBet
The big three – Honeysuckle, Epatante and Goshen – dominate the market, and Henry de Bromhead’s mare Honeysuckle is favourite to extend her incredible unbeaten sequence to 12 in a thriller.
She was at her imperious best when thumping Abacadabras and Sharjah in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last month and fought off Benie Des Dieux when landing the 2m 4f Mares’ Hurdle here last March.
Last year, EPATANTE gave owner JP McManus his fourth consecutive scalp in the race (and his ninth in total), and was undeniably impressive when dashing clear up the hill.
She was at home on the soft/heavy ground, which didn’t favour runner-up Sharjah, so Sunday night’s rainfall was a bonus. She blotted her copybook when no match for Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton but is better than that disappointing effort.
The 7lb sex allowance received by Epatante and Honeysuckle constitutes a significant advantage.
Loud groans could be heard up and down the country when popular Goshen misjudged the final flight and lost his rider in the 2020 JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Gary Moore’s star bounced back to form when steamrolling his rivals into submission at Wincanton and is sure to prove popular with punters.
Historically, only two five-year-olds have won this race in the last 30 years, but Goshen looks no ordinary five-year-old.
Abacadabras lost out on the nod to Shishkin in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (pair clear) and Jack Kennedy will adopt a stalking position off a strong gallop. He should go well at an each-way price.
Thommo's Champion Hurdle Tip
- Epatante 7/2 (Casumo)
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