David Pipe’s 25-1 Champion Hurdle outsider Adagio is set to reappear for the first time since November this weekend. He is expected to clash with Goshen in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, a wide margin winner of the same race 12 months’ ago. We take a look at his prospects of emerging as a serious threat to odds-on Honeysuckle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival 2022.
Pipe confident that Adagio has class for Champion Hurdle bid
David Pipe has always rated Adagio very highly and the French import ran a fine race when second in the Triumph Hurdle last season. He had won three of his four races over hurdles prior to Cheltenham and was particularly impressive when landing the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow. He proved to be the best of the home-trained four-year-olds but was beaten by Irish raider Quilixios.
Adagio looked set for a good season when making a bold attempt to defy top weight in the competitive Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. He moved easily up to the leaders at the second last and only went down by three-quarters of a length to West Cork. He was conceding 13lbs to Dan Skelton’s useful handicapper.
The Greatwood is often a source of numerous future winners and this season’s race has certainly followed the trend. Fifth-placed Tritonic won the Betfair Exchange Trophy and sixth-placed Glory And Fortune won last Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle. Seventh horse Marie’s Rock has gone on to win a Kempton handicap by seven lengths and won a listed mares race at Warwick last weekend. Ballyandy, Cormier and Mick Maestro have all come out and won since finishing well down the field in the Greatwood.
Goshen not heading to Cheltenham this year
The ante-post favourite for the Kingwell Hurdle is Gary Moore’s Goshen. He returned to his brilliant best in this race last year, beating Song For Someone by 22 lengths. That victory raised expectations for the Champion Hurdle but he trailed home a remote fifth. Moore has him in fine form at present with a similarly dominant victory at Sandown in the Contenders Hurdle earlier this month. If Goshen gets a soft lead on Saturday, Adagio will have to be at his very best to beat him. Goshen will side-step Cheltenham this year with Moore having taken him out at the most recent declaration stage.
Adagio is not the only runner with a Champion Hurdle entry as the Paul Nicholls-trained Monmiral is still in the race. He is currently a 33-1 chance for Cheltenham after a poor run in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November. He finished lame that day and would not be out of it on his juvenile form.
He won well in soft ground at Haydock before beating Adagio by seven and a half lengths at Aintree. The Nicholls stable remains under close scrutiny after a recent dip in form, although Bravemansgame went some way to easing the concern with a stylish win at Newbury on Saturday. If you are prepared to overlook Monmiral’s Newcastle run, he is also in with every chance.
The last horse to win the Kingwell Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle in the same season was Alan King’s Katchit in 2008. It will take something special to threaten Honeysuckle’s grip on the Champion Hurdle crown but there is certainly some place money up for grabs. A win for either Adagio or Monmiral on Saturday would put them back in contention.