Teahupoo is rapidly improving and can prove a threat to Honeysuckle
The ante-post betting on the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham was given a much-needed shot in the arm by the runaway victory of Teahupoo at Gowran Park on Saturday. Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old defeated last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Quilixios for the third time this season. It was by far his most impressive performance and Elliott has given him the green light to take on Honeysuckle next month. Although beaten at Wincanton, Adagio also did enough to book his place at Cheltenham. Here is our assessment of how the Champion Hurdle field is taking shape.
Teahupoo impressive despite hating the heavy ground
Teahupoo has only been defeated once in seven races when second to Jeff Kidder at Fairyhouse last April. He bounced back with a 12 lengths win over Quilixios at Navan but only defeated that rival by half a length at Limerick at the end of December. He had looked beaten between the last two flights but a bold leap at the last enabled him to get back up close home.
That still left a lot of questions unanswered regarding his Champion Hurdle credentials but he looked the real deal at Gowran Park. He led three out and pulled further away up the home straight, beating Darasso by 11 lengths with his old rival a further 11 lengths adrift in third. Jockey Robbie Power reported that Teahupoo was hating the heavy ground but picked up when he met the better ground turning for home.
Bookmakers reacted by cutting his odds from 16-1 to 10-1 (Coral, Betfred NRNB). The hot favourite Honeysuckle is as short as 2-5 to retain her Champion Hurdle crown but Teahupoo looks a serious threat. He should relish the Cheltenham hill and connections are convinced he will be even better on decent ground. With second favourite Appreciate It facing the daunting prospect of running in the Champion Hurdle after a year off the track, Teahupoo makes plenty of each-way appeal.
Adagio a best-priced 20-1 for Champion Hurdle
The other Champion Hurdle trial last weekend was the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. Gary Moore’s Goshen won the race for the second successive season, repelling the persistent challenge of Adagio. Moore had already taken Goshen out of the Champion Hurdle after some disappointing appearances at Cheltenham. He could run at Punchestown and Moore is also planning a tilt at some valuable staying races on the flat next summer.
Adagio had been off the track since November so David Pipe’s runner may just have been caught out by race fitness on the run-in. He emerged with great credit and is a best-priced 20-1 shot for the Champion. He looks the best prospect of a British-trained winner outside of 2020 winner Epatante (8-1 NRNB) who recently received a timely form boost. Epatante defeated Glory And Fortune in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing day. The runner-up came out and won the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and is a 50-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle.
Tommy’s Oscar is the dark horse of the British contingent, trained by Ann Hamilton at Capheaton in Northumberland. He was rated only 138 over hurdles when winning a handicap at Haydock in November. He has since risen to 159 after landing the Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial last month. He beat a couple of veteran hurdlers in Global Citizen and Hunters Call but the son of Oscar is entitled to take his chance.