Champion Hurdle tips – young guns set to herald in new era

Epatante is seeking to retain her Champion Hurlde crown at the Cheltenham FestivalEpatante is seeking to retain her Champion Hurlde crown at the Cheltenham Festival

Champion Hurdle Tips

Daryl Carter (@DarylCarter7) gives the latest of his Cheltenham day 1 tips here as he runs the rule over the showpiece event, the Champion Hurdle.

Many people will have you believe that this is a weak renewal of the Champion Hurdle but I’m a glass half-full kind of guy and I think we’re all set for an exciting and competitive race.

Champion Hurdle Tips – Worthy favourite

EPATANTE has more tactical speed than her market rivals and won a key trial for the race in the form of the Kempton Christmas Hurdle, in which she took apart her rivals and eased clear to win by a comfortable five lengths from last year’s Champion Hurdle third Silver Streak.

It’s easy for people to crab that form but Silver Streak has failed to finish outside the first three in his last nine starts over two miles and he is a solid yardstick.

Epatante’s Cheltenham form will always come into question because of her run in the Mares Novice’ Hurdle last term when a disappointing favourite, but that came after a flu jab and in first-time headgear.

Her high cruising speed, turn of foot and rapid improving nature makes her a worthy favourite for the race and she holds leading claims.

Epatante stablemate looks out of his depth

Pentland Hills has shown all the right attributes  but has failed to deliver twice this season, finishing second on both outings.

He travels smoothly through his races but has started to show signs of the quirks he had when he ran on the Flat. Perhaps he is in need of a wind operation, or much more likely he is not quite up to the level of the Champion Hurdle.

No piece of form warrants his single-figure odds but Epatante’s stablemate is about as far from being one of my Cheltenham betting tips as it’s possible to be.

Pipe second-string a big player

HONEYSUCKLE has been outstanding over the middle-distance trip of 2m4f and her class beamed through at Leopardstown during the Dublin Racing Festival when she dropped to two miles to land the Irish Champion Hurdle on her first attempt on a left-handed-track.

That took her record to seven wins under rules and she was much better than the bare form that day. She rates a huge Champion Hurdle player if lining up here.

Keep an eye on going for Mullins contender

SHARJAH has always been held in high regard by Willie Mullins but has failed to deliver on two occasions at the Cheltenham Festival on soft and heavy ground.

Reliant on getting decent ground,  he will be a leading contender if conditions come in his favour but him winning would definitely highligh ta lack of depth in the race.

He could manage only sixth in the Irish Champion Hurdle on his favoured ground and that form would not be good enough, even in a weak year.

Irish contender is under the radar

DARVER STAR had slipped under the radar before this season and stepped out of novice company to chase down Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Previous to that, he was unlucky not to finish closer to leading novice hurdler Envoi Allen after suffering interference before the final flight when making his challenge.

He rates a rapid improver for last year’s Champion Hurdle winning trainer Gavin Cromwell but still has plenty to find on the ratings. A winner over further in his career to date, the stiff finish at Cheltenham will suit and it remains to be seen where his limit lies.

Fusil form not up to much

FUSIL RAFFLES has been disappointing on the whole this term, including when winning first time out at Wincanton.

That form doesn’t warrant him too much consideration in this field and he rates a risky proposition after being pulled up at Kempton behind Epatante on Boxing Day.

He is held in high regard by trainer Nicky Henderson but will need to show much more than he has done so far and this race will require a career-best effort with a less-than-ideal preparation.

Class horse is an interesting outsider

SUPASUNDAE would be a welcome addition to the race if he runs, with form figures of 421222 in his last six attempts at Grade 1 level.

Four of those came over two miles and he probably boasts the best form on offer in the field and he returned this season with a fine fourth behind Honeysuckle on his seasonal reappearance.

Now a ten-year-old, it remains up for debate whether he has the tactical speed for a Champion Hurdle and he could prove better over 2m4f, but he is an interesting contender.

Could run well but does he have class to win?

THOMAS DARBY is a player after his second in the Supreme Novice Hurdle last season as well as his Ascot effort in January.

A failed attempt at a chasing career has seen him revert to hurdles and he is one of the more interesting runners at bigger prices, but remains to be seen if he has the class for a Champion Hurdle and he might appreciate further than two miles these days.

Champion Hurdle big-race verdict

Epatante ticks all the boxes for me and, with valid excuses for her run in the Mares Novice Hurdle last season, the talented mare is added to my Cheltenham day 1 tips.