Faugheen stormed to the head of the 2015 Champion Hurdle betting following a facile success in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, but the unbeaten Willie Mullins-trained superstar is sure to have his toughest test to date in what is shaping up into a sensational renewal of the Cheltenham Festival showpiece on March 10.
A fine winner of the Neptune at last year's Prestbury Park extravaganza, the six-year-old has since launched out of the novice division with aplomb and his easy win in the aforementioned festive contest saw his price plummet for this Championship contest and he's sure going to be tough to beat.
However, The New One has racked up four wins on the spin this campaign and he showed his love for Cheltenham when easing to victory in the International Hurdle in December. Nevertheless, he wasn't as impressive in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock Park, where his stamina just saw off Bertimont and he will need more here to land a blow on the red-hot jolly.
Reigning champion Jezki has tasted a brace of defeats to two-times Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly and that pair are set to clash in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but the former has to respected for this specific race as he will sure relish the quicker going at the Gloucestershire venue in the spring.
Arctic Fire was just behind that star pairing when third in the Ryanair Hurdle and he will be the third shot fired by the Mullins gun, whilst the likes of Vaniteux and Kitten Rock add terrific depth to what should be a cracking showpiece on the opening day.
10/3 The New One
8/1 Hurricane Fly
14/1 Arctic Fire
28/1 Kitten Rock
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The Champion Hurdle is another of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival each season in March, it falls on the first day of the Festival and more often than not it proves to be one of the most exciting race if the entire week.
It cannot quite match the prestige of the Cheltenham Gold Cup but it certainly can for drama, as the season’s best horses at 2 miles over the smaller obstacles do battle for the biggest race in their class. The betting for the Champion Hurdle runs right through the season until the Festival with thousands wagered on the race in the ante post market as well as on race day itself.
The Champion Hurdle was first run in 1927 on the Old Course at Cheltenham and since then there have been some legendary winners of the race, any horse that wins the Champion Hurdle immediately writes their name into the record books and has to be of the very highest quality. There have been four horses who have won the race three times with the two most recent being See You Then in the 80’s and the brilliant Istabraq in the late 90’s, who was actually trained by Aidan O’Brien, better known for his training of flat horses. It was highly likely that he would have gone onto to win a record 4th in 2001 as well had the Festival not been cancelled due to the foot and mouth outbreak.
See You Then was trained by Nicky Henderson who has trained the winner of the Champion Hurdle on no less than five occasions, as well as the three wins in the 80’s he has won back-to-back races with Punjabi in 2009 and most recently Binocular in 2010. Henderson has a knack of getting his runners just right for the big day and punters can do a lot worse than follow him in the big race. Any horse who wins the Champion Hurdle will need to have speed as well as stamina as the pace is always fast and furious around the Old Course, which means that it is difficult for mares to compete with their male counterparts in the Champion Hurdle. In fact, only two mares have ever won the race with the first one being Dawn Run in 1984, and the second being Flakey Dove in 1994 with both proving to be winners of the highest quality.
The excitement of the Champion Hurdle makes it many horse racing fans race of the season from a fans and a punting point of view, and at the moment that is showing no signs of slowing down with the quality of the race seemingly increasing with every passing year.
The Champion Hurdle attracts a select amount of classy hurdlers and even though it won't have as many runners as the leading handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival it will be oozing with class. So, we will keep abreast of the latest form guides as well informing you of the runners that are declared for the race in March.
Morgiana Hurdle (Punchestown)
Racing Post Hurdle (Cheltenham)
Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Newcastle)
International Hurdle (Cheltenham)
Ascot Hurdle (Ascot)
Christmas Hurdle (Kempton Park)
Irish Champion Hurdle (Leopardstown)
Champion Hurdle Trial (Haydock Park)
Welsh Champion Hurdle (Ffos Las)
Contenders Hurdle (Sandown Park)
December Festival Hurdle (Leopardstown)
Hatton's Grace Hurdle (Fairyhouse)