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Nicky Henderson’s gamble to reroute BUVEUR D’AIR from a path towards the JLT to the Champion Hurdle paid off last season, as the JP McManus-owned gelding stormed to a smashing success. Since then, the returning king has further established his position at the head of the hurdling ranks and it’s hard to make a case for any of his other Champion Hurdle rivals.

Buveur D’Air has won all three of his races this season – including Grade One victories in the Fighting Fifth and the International Hurdle without breaking a sweat. Barry Geraghty has only looked troubled once during any of those outings and that was when he eased his mount down a little prematurely, in what should have been a lengthy victory on his most recent outing at Sandown.

My Tent Or Yours has a fantastic record in this race and could challenge for the places. Faugheen still has quality and cannot be counted out. Yet, Buveur D’Air has looked so strong over the past year and clearly has plenty more to give. The Champion Hurdle is his to lose.

2018 Champion Hurdle Star-Rating Guide

Our expert has taken a look at the key players in this year’s Champion Hurdle and put together this star rating guide for the feature race on Tuesday at the Cheltenham Festival.

The first Championship race of the Cheltenham Festival is the historic Champion Hurdle. Some of the finest equine athletes the sport has ever produced have romped to glory in this two mile hurdle and a strong field will assemble in a weeks’ time to try and claim top honours in 2018.

Our expert has taken a look at each of the top contenders in detail and put together this star-rating guide – rating each runner’s chances of winning the Champion Hurdle out of five stars.

BUVEUR D'AIR (8/15 Paddy Power)

Since claiming a magnificent victory in this race 12 months ago, Buveur D’Air has walked serenely over the hurdling ranks here in Britain. His victory in the two-and-a-half mile Aintree Hurdle was arguably even more impressive than his triumph at Cheltenham. In the early months of the new season, Buveur D’Air strolled to the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle crowns without even breaking a sweat.

The only blip on his form card is a surprisingly close finish to the Contenders’ Hurdle. Barry Geraghty eased his mount down rather prematurely, before panicking and flailing the whip around in the closing stages as John Constable closed the gap. If Geraghty had kept his concentration, Buveur D’Air would have won by a streak, but that one length winning margin doesn’t tarnish what was another straight-forward victory.

Nicky Henderson’s charge is the best hurdler around at the moment. He’s recorded four Grade One triumphs in his last five starts and he hasn’t been forced out of third gear at any point this season. It’s hard to see how anyone will be able to deny Buveur D’Air.


Buveur D'Air (right) romps clear to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle

CALL ME LORD (66/1 BetVictor)

Nicky Henderson was hoping Call Me Lord would establish himself as a genuine Champion Hurdle contender when he took on some decent rivals in the Kingwell last month. Elgin seemed there for the taking rounding the final bend, but the finishing burst most people expected from the Munir and Suoede stablemate never arrived and he eventually crossed the line third.

Call Me Lord will be given one final chance to impress before heading to Cheltenham. He will carry top-weight into the Imperial Cup and only a victory will do. There’s plenty of time for this lightly-raced five-year-old to progress, but he’s not a Champion Hurdle horse. Not this year, anyway.


CH'TIBELLO (33/1 William Hill)

Ch’tibello was another expected to challenge in the Kingwell, especially after pushing The New One all the way to the line in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock the previous month. Harry Skelton held his mount up and the duo made their move with two to jump, but they were powerless to deny Elgin and had to settle for second once again.

Dan Skelton kept his charge under lock-and-key for much of the autumn and winter months, hoping to keep him fresh for a busy spring campaign. Ch’tibello clearly has talent, but he always seems to find a way to fall short at this level and his best Champion Hurdle hope is claiming a spot in the places.


Faugheen battles with Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

FAUGHEEN (6/1 Paddy Power)

Excitement coursed through the horse racing world when Faugheen announced his return in November, powering to a lengthy win in the Morgiana Hurdle. More of the same was expected when Faugheen set off in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown, but it was soon evident “the Machine” wasn’t in full working order and Paul Townend was forced to pull his mount up well before the end.

The Irish Champion Hurdle was set up perfectly for Faugheen to bounce back, with Willie Mullins’ star looking strong at the head of affairs. Before his injury problems, Faugheen would have put the race to bed in the blink of an eye, but the ten-year-old failed to pull away from the competition and was comfortably seen off after the last by Stayers’ favourite Supasundae.

It’s clear Faugheen isn’t the force of old, but it will still be terrific to see the former Champion Hurdler strut his stuff at Cheltenham again. He may be a little down on his luck at the moment, but you get the feeling that if there is one horse out there who could stop Buveur D’Air, Faugheen is the one to do it.



Despite winter being his least favourite time of the year, John Constable has held his own quite well. His margin of defeat behind Buveur D’Air was flattering, but he managed to cross the line just four lengths behind the winner in the Christmas Hurdle on his first start of the new campaign at Kempton.

Evan Williams’ charge was excellent during the spring and summer months. A fall at the last denied John Constable a certain victory at Aintree, but he made up for that mishap by claiming a big prize pot at Ayr and landing the Listed Summer Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen carrying top-weight. This is the time when John Constable comes alive, but he’s a handicapper running in a Grade One and doesn’t stand much of a chance.


John Constable (centre) eventually finishes second to Buveur D'Air (right) in the Contenders' Hurdle.

MELON (16/1 William Hill)

Melon made a fairly inauspicious start to his season at Down Royal, where he was made to work very hard to win the WKD Hurdle as the 2/5 favourite. Approaching the final flight in the International Hurdle, he loomed menacingly onto the shoulder of front runners, before being outbattled and banished to third in the run to the line.

A much-improved result was needed in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but it failed to arrive, as Melon faded on the run to the line and eventually finished fifth. Some have claimed he could be the best each-way bet at his current price, but for me, there are several who hold greater each-way appeal than last year’s Supreme second.


MICK JAZZ (33/1 William Hill)

Gordon Elliott’s charge was comfortably beaten on his first two starts of the season – finishing five lengths adrift of Melon on his reappearance before tiring in the final few furlongs of the Hattons’ Grace. Most expected Cilaos Emery to pick up the pieces when Faugheen bowed out of the Ryanair at Leopardstown, but it was Mick Jazz who produced the best jumps down the home straight and was left celebrating a surprise Grade One victory.

Faugheen and Supasundae were a long way clear of their rivals at the Dublin Racing Festival. Mick Jazz ran on well to claim the final place, passing the post just four lengths behind the beaten favourite. A lot of this bunch are fairly evenly matched and any of them could challenge for a place. Taking everything into account and his current lengthy odds, Mick Jazz appeals most.


My Tent Or Yours (left) beating The New One and Melon to the International Hurdle.

MY TENT OR YOURS (10/1 Ladbrokes)

Nicky Henderson has admitted My Tent Or Yours is getting a little long in the tooth, but there were no signs of age catching up with the ten-year-old when he claimed an overdue victory in the International Hurdle. The New One served up a stuff challenge and Melon was shaping ominously, but Geraghty produced My Tent perfectly between the leaders and he got his nose to the line first to seal a romantic win.

Three times My Tent Or Yours has entered the Champion Hurdle with little more than a fighter’s chance and he’s finished second on all three occasions. The likelihood of My Tent turning the tables on Buveur D’Air looks slim, but he’s certainly one of the leading contenders in the race for second place.


WICKLOW BRAVE (14/1 BetVictor)

With Patrick Mullins in the saddle, Wicklow Brave pulled off quite the coup last spring, streaking clear of the luckless My Tent Or Yours to claim a surprise victory in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Since then, Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old has plied his trade on the level, rounding off a winless flat season with a tenth place finish in the Melbourne Cup.

The 2015 County Hurdle winner crossed the line seventh in last year’s Champion Hurdle. A rating of 164 means Mullins has little choice but to enter Wicklow Brave into this race for the second year in a row and, while his chances seem remote at best, he proved at Punchestown last season that, on a going day, anything is possible.


Yorkhill winning the 2016 Ballymore.

YORKHILL (12/1 William Hill)

The notion that Yorkhill was a Gold Cup contender was quashed fairly quickly, as Willie Mullins’ charge faded through the field in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown. Mullins then decided to give his chaser a speed test, pitting him against stablemate Min at the Dublin Racing Festival, where Yorkhill’s colours were lowered even further.

The Ryanair would be the natural progression for last year’s JLT winner, but Willie has been keen to have another crack at hurdling for the best part of 18 months now and he, himself has said he’s leaning towards the Champion Hurdle. Yorkhill may be low on form and confidence, but any horse with his class and his pedigree at the Cheltenham Festival cannot be overlooked too quickly. If Yorkhill is confirmed in the Champion Hurdle, look out for the late plunge.


Full Champion Hurdle Star-Ratings

⭐ BUVEUR D'AIR - 5 ⭐
The Champion Hurdle (3:20pm) is the highlight of day one of the Cheltenham Festival and the most prestigious hurdle race run all season. 

Some of the greatest names in the sport grace the race’s role of honour including Persian War, Bula, Night Nurse, Monksfield, Sea Pigeon, See You Then and Istabraq.  Interestingly, despite it being the race all the best hurdlers are aimed at, multiple winners are not uncommon as Istabraq and Hardy Eustace have proved in recent years. This is probably partly due to the unique requirements of the race and horses with previous course form, especially previous Festival form, have fared particularly well in the event. 

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