Cheltenham Festival 2018 – Champions Hurdle Preview
The Champions Hurdle is the highlight of Day One at Cheltenham, and is the race that really gets the Festival underway. Like every race over the first two days of the festival, it is run on the Old Course at Prestbury Park, just outside the historic spa town of Cheltenham. The race is run over a distance of just over two miles.
What happened last year?
In 2017, the race was won by Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air. The 5/1 shot overcame the 2/1 favourite Yanworth and won by four and a half lengths. My Tent Or Yours came in second, and Petit Mouchoir third, while Yanworth never really got going and placed seventh.
Tipsters’ choices for 2018
The bookmakers have Buveur D’Air as odds-on favourite to defend his trophy and win the Champions Hurdle for a second year, a feat last performed by Laurence Byrne’s Hardy Eustace in 2005. However, the tipsters at Cheltenhamfestival.net think that punters are better off looking a little further down the Champions race day card for the most tempting bets. With Buveur D’Air so hotly fancied, it could be that an each way shot among the best of the rest is where the smart money lies.
We should start with a look at the favourite, though. Nicky Henderson has a tendency to produce winners at Cheltenham, and has been doing so for the past 40 years. Following last year’s victory, Henderson described his winner as “a very talented horse,” and he has won every other outing since, including the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. Barring disaster, it is hard to see any other horse run him close, and on current form, there is every possibility of him going on to match Istabraq’s amazing record of three in three years.
My Tent Or Yours
There is an unwritten rule around Cheltenham, that if you are unsure what horse to back, you should look for one of Nicky Henderson’s and failing that, you should look for another one of Nicky Henderson’s. Last year, he trained not only the winner, but the horse that came in second. My Tent Or Yours was a 16/1 long shot, but managed second place for the third time, having achieved the same feat in 2014 and 2016. Could he do it again? Many bookmakers have shortened the odds to 12/1 this year, but some are still offering 16/1, which has to be worth an each way wager.
Willie Mullins is refusing to be over optimistic, and is calling the Champions Hurdle a “big step up,” but the word from the tipsters is that if there is one horse with a realistic chance of spoiling Buveur D’Air’s party it is Melon. The horse showed impressive speed to win at Down Royal in November, and he showed well at Cheltenham the week before Christmas losing, as fate would have it, to My Tent Or Yours
The tipsters might be all over Melon, but the bookmakers are showing far more interest in another from the Mullins stable. Faugheen romped home to win this very race in 2015, and bookies currently have him as second favourite, offering 4/1. However, a poor run over Christmas cast doubt on his fitness, and everything could depend on the form on show at the Dublin Festival this weekend. Many punters are keeping their powder dry and their stakes in their pockets till the dust has settled on Leopardstown.
If Faugheen’s variable form is a mystery, Yorkhill, yet another Mullins runner, is an enigma. This is another horse that disappointed in the Christmas run out at Leopardstown, but all will be far clearer after the weekend. He is odds on favourite in the Grade 2 Dublin Chase on Sunday. If the race goes to form, expect the 10/1 Champions Hurdle odds to shorten. Anything less, and Mullins will have even more head scratching to do in the run up to Cheltenham.