If you haven’t checked our 2017 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Ante-Post market, for a few weeks, you might be in for a surprise. A number of big names have now been withdrawn and the top of the market now looks very different. Don’t forget that we are offering ‘Non-Runner No Bet’ on this race! Here are just 3 of the horses that now find themselves among the favourites…View Full Ante-Post Market Now!
Despite still being just a 5-year-old and winning only 1 of her last 3 races, punters are taking a big bite into Apple’s Jade. Gordon Elliott’s mare disappointed at Down Royal and lost the Fighting Fifth Hurdle to Irving, in November as well.
But when you beat a horse as good as Vroum Vroum Mag (and Willie Mullins’ inmate was given every chance, in the G1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle), the racing world is bound to sit-up and take notice.
“She is an amazing horse to get into the yard. She looks so exciting. I have never had a proper Champion Hurdle hope before. With Identity Thief going chasing, I would imagine Apple’s Jade will be aimed at the Champion Hurdle,” Elliott said, back in October of last year.
However, in recent weeks Elliott has hinted that the Mares Hurdle is being looked at as an alternative target. This could just be smoke and mirrors, but at this time of year who really knows?
The 2014 winner’s name will be a real blast from the past for many, but Jessica Harrington’s inmate can still do the business and is in terrific form.
He beat another naughty old uncle, Rock On Ruby, by 13 lengths to win the G1 Aintree Hurdle and also came out on top in the G1 World Series Hurdle at Punchestown. Jezki was last seen at Navan, in January, when he put the likes of Renneti and Gordon Elliott’s Tombstone to the sword.
Harrington refused to be drawn on his Champion Hurdle prospects, insisting that Jezki’s performance at Gowran Park on this coming Saturday would contribute greatly to the final decision.
“We will have to see what happens on Saturday before thinking about Cheltenham where JP [McManus] has lots of horses to pick from. We’ve got to get there first and then I’ll be happy to let them decide,” she said.
Victory in such a prestigious contest looks a very big ask, for a horse that has only raced once in G1 company and finished a well-beaten 3rd. However, Nicky Henderson’s lag went-off at odds of 20/1 in that race (Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, Punchestown) and finished more than 7 lengths ahead of Yorkhill.
The 6-year-old is unbeaten, since then, winning a Listed encounter at Sandown and a G3 handicap at Ascot. Stablemate Consul De Thaix began that race a stone better-off, yet finished 5 lengths in deficit. Afterwards, Henderson spoke to journalists but gave little away about his plans for the feature event on the opening day of the Festival.
“It’s been a great race and is one of those big pre-Christmas handicaps that are very tough to win. You need a progressive horse, I think, and that is exactly what they (Brain Power and Consul De Thaix) both are.
“Brain Power was very good at Sandown and has won two good prizes. They were first and second there and they’ve been first and second again. You’d be worried they didn’t have the experience for a race like this, running against seasoned handicappers, but both of them were very good.”
This year’s Champion Hurdle now looks very open and we are taking bets on many horses. These include Buveur D’air, Yanworth, Petit Mouchoir, Vroum Vroum Mag, Un De Sceaux, The New One and Nichols Canyon.
Race Info & History
This race is for horses aged 4 and up, with the runners traveling a distance of just over 2m. There is a £400,000 purse up for grabs, in what is the final leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling. The other 2 legs are the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Christmas Hurdle (won by Irving and Yanworth, this season).
The Champion Hurdle massively overshadows both of those encounters though and is by far the most prestigious hurdles race of the year. First held way back in 1927, the inaugural winner of the Champion Hurdle was Blaris who scooped £365 for connections! Recent winners include Annie Power, Faugheen, Hurricane Fly and Binocular. Go back a little further and you’ll find even greater names among the list of former champions. Istabraq, Dawn Run and Sea Pigeon are among the most fondly-remembered.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the feature race on the opening day of Cheltenham, this year!View Full Ante-Post Market Now!