2021 Champion Hurdle tips – Cheltenham Festival feature runner-by-runner preview
2021 Champion Hurdle runner-by-runner
The feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival we’ve taken a look at the big-race field with our 2021 Champion Hurdle runner-by-runner guide and pick out our Champion Hurdle tips.
Featuring on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and getting underway at 3.05pm as the fourth race of the afternoon the Champion Hurdle will garner plenty of attention from punters with the two-mile hurdling crown up for grabs along with a first prize of almost £190,000 for the winner.
We’ve looked over the big-race field for Tuesday’s feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and we’ve picked out our Champion Hurdle tips as we take a runner-by-runner look at the feature.
2021 CHAMPION HURDLE TIPS – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL RUNNER-BY-RUNNER PREVIEW
Suffered only two defeat over hurdles as a novice last term, delivered by Envoi Allen and Shishkin respectively with the latter coming in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Denise Foster’s charge was beaten by reopposing Aspire Tower on his reappearance but got back to winning ways with a narrow victory over Saint Roi in the Morgiana Hurdle. He’s been beaten twice since though, disappointing behind Sharjah in the Matheson Hurdle and proving no match for Honeysuckle latterly in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
There’s an argument that he’s not been seen to best effect in those contests that have been steadily run affairs and a stronger pace here might see him to better effect although he’ll likely need to raise his game a notch to take this prize.
Proved a useful sort on the flat but looked even better over hurdles, winning his first two starts before falling in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle last February although he bounced back to finish second to Burning Victory in the Triumph Hurdle twelve months ago.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge saw off the reopposing Abacadabras in the Grade Two WKD Hurdle and lost little caste in defeat when denied by Sharjah in the Matheson Hurdle when last seen where he set a good pace and possibly just did too much in front.
The Born To Sea gelding remains open to improvement and could progress again; but he was held by Goshen in last season’s Triumph Hurdle when that one fell at the last and needs to find more although the drying ground won’t be an issue.
He’s been given a break since last being seen and he could be a decent each-way candidate although others are perhaps stronger for win purposes; he could post a big run however and he’s respected.
Despite the official result Gary Moore’s charge can for all intents and purposes be considered the Triumph Hurdle winner and while that race hasn’t been great for future Champion Hurdle candidates the Authorized gelding could buck that trend.
Useful on the flat where he was a 80-rated winner he won his first three starts over hurdles without breaking a sweat, registering a collective 64 lengths’ winning distance prior to the Triumph Hurdle where he was ten lengths clear and still going powerfully when unseating Jamie Moore at the last hurdle.
It had been a devastating and impressive run up to that point but redemption could await and he bounced back from his disappointing run in the International Hurdle to demolish Song For Someone by 22 lengths almost on the bridle.
His earlier flop behind the same rival was down to having suffered a fibrillating heartbeat; but he showed no ill effects at Wincanton where he came right back to his best and he’s looks sure to come on again for that easy victory.
This will be a much sterner test of his credentials, but he’s been impressive in victory and could easily have even more to give. He looks sure to play a big part here and every chance he’ll go close.
JAMES DU BERLAIS
One of three in the contest for Willie Mullins the Muhtathir gelding has proven himself a smart sort in France where he’s won twice in Grade Three company and his latest outing saw him finish just a short-head second behind Moises Has in a Grade One at Auteuil.
The five-year old makes his first start for Mullins having left Robert Collet and this will represent a very tough test for him returning from four months off; while his form in France has largely come over further than this two miles test and mostly on much more testing ground than he’s likely to get on Tuesday.
Given his connections he has to be given a second look and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him performing well; however it remains to be seen how his French form will translate on his first run for Mullins in this competitive Grade One.
NOT SO SLEEPY
Smart dual-purpose performer who has won his fair share both on the flat and over hurdles which includes last season’s Grade Three Betfair Exchange Hurdle although he pulled up in this race twelve months ago where he was possibly amiss.
He made his return on the flat where he won a four-runner contest at Pontefract prior to posting a very good fourth in the Cesarewitch next time but he was a refusal at the first when sent back hurdling in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
The Beat Hollow gelding successfully defended his Grade Three crown when last seen, beating Buzz to land a second Betfair Exchange Hurdle and he’s been given a break so comes here fresh although it is debatable whether he’s good enough to mix it at this much higher level and he looks set to struggle again.
Hasn’t been without his problems but has been high class when sound, winning the 2018 AES Champion 4YO Hurdle at Punchestown and he might have beaten Espoir D’allen on his return the following season in the Fishery Lane Hurdle.
That was his only run that campaign and he took plenty of time to return to the track where he won a second Grade One title with a defeat of Petit Mouchoir in the 2019 Morgiana Hurdle before another lengthy absence.
Willie Mullins’ Soldier Hollow gelding hasn’t fired in two runs this term, beating only one home in the Matheson Hurdle behind stablemate Sharjah and then finishing a long way last behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle and he has some questions to answer now.
He could help set the pace for stablemate Sharjah but he’s looked a shadow of the horse he threatened to be earlier in his career and he’s tough to make a case for here.
Top-class performer if a little inconsistent although he has managed to win four Grade Ones including a trio of Matheson Hurdle crowns.
The Doctor Dino gelding was brought down in this race two seasons ago but found only Epatante too good in the race twelve months ago having disappointed the time before behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Two runs on the flat over the summer failed to see him in the best light, but he returned to hurdles with an impressive victory over Aspire Tower in December; however he disappointed again behind Honeysuckle again in the Irish Champion Hurdle recently and a bounce back is called for.
It is possible he didn’t handle the heavy ground last time and the better surface here will be more conducive to his chances; he could easily bounce back but he has a bit to do with a couple of these and he might again just find a couple too good for him.
Evan Williams’ charge finished sixth in this race twelve months ago having twice placed previously in Grade Ones and the Dark Angel gelding is no back number here for all he needs to continue his improvement.
A winner on his reappearance at Kempton in October he was carried out by Not So Sleepy early on at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. Having subsequently been denied by a nose behind Song For Someone here in the International Hurdle he bounced back with a defeat of reigning Champion Hurdle champion Epatante at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle.
He benefited from a more aggressive ride to strike by six lengths on that occasion although Epatante wasn’t at her best that day; however he’s cemented his place at the top level and he’s worthy of his place in the line-up where he can give a good account although he’s not certain to be able to confirm Kempton form with an on-song Epatante.
Defending champion and one of two mares in the race along with Honeysuckle it is hard to ignore the claims of Nicky Henderson’s charge if back to her best having met with defeat at Kempton when last seen.
That was only her second defeat over hurdles having run below par in the 2019 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle before winning three straight and returning this term with an impressive win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Although she met with defeat next time in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton behind Silver Streak she was subsequently found to have a back issue that has since been treated and if coming back to her best form she could go close in her bid to retain her crown.
Proven in a range of ground conditions from good to soft as well as heavy ground in France she holds solid claims for her top yard.
Unbeaten over hurdles and a Cheltenham Festival winner having won last season’s Mares’ Hurdle where she got the better of Benie Des Dieux in a real battle and she’s 2-2 this term to extend her winning run to ten victories without defeat.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge was last seen running out an impressive ten lengths’ victor of the Irish Champion Hurdle but that form perhaps can’t be taken literally as the Sulamani mare rather stole that race under an enterprising ride. Taking up the running halfway she was kicked clear turning in and her rivals couldn’t land a blow on her with the heavy conditions making it difficult for anything to close from the rear.
She’s been strong over longer trips so there’s a slight worry that she may prove vulnerable in a stronger race than she contested last time and she won’t want this to be tactical over the shorter trip.
That said she’s entitled to take her position at the head of the betting and she’ll again prove a tough nut to crack if the demands of the race don’t go against her.
CHAMPION HURDLE VERDICT
Honeysuckle could prove a tough nut to crack and the unbeaten mare looks sure to go close; while a back-to-form Epatante might not be too far away either.
GOSHEN however gets the vote having bounced back to his best in no uncertain terms with a bloodless victory in the Kingwell Hurdle and Gary Moore’s star can atone for his last-flight fall in last season’s Triumph Hurdle when well clear.
The Triumph Hurdle has been something of a graveyard for those with future Champion Hurdle hopes with the tough Katchit the last to win the Triumph/Champion Hurdle double in 2007/08. Goshen for all intents and purposes can be considered the winner twelve months ago despite the official record saying otherwise, still travelling strongly in front when blundering his jockey out of the saddle when holding a ten lengths’ lead.
That run proved his ability to handle this track and his subsequent runs on the flat are easily overlooked. He was found to have had a fibrillating heart following a disappointing return to hurdling in the International Hurdle, but that performance was banished to history with an impressive return to form where he beat Song For Someone – who had beaten Silver Streak in the International – by 22 lengths.
If he continues to build on that performance then the sky could be the limit for him and he’s still only a five-year old so has plenty of time to further find improvement. Better ground also shouldn’t be an issue as he was a good ground winner on the flat prior to switching codes.
Assuming he’s none the worse for his Wincanton exertions in heavy ground and he arrives here in top form then he looks to hold solid claims of exorcising his Triumph Hurdle demons and snap the hoodoo of that race as a Champion Hurdle precursor.