CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look at the Day 1 highlight as the horses battle it out in the Champion Hurdle.
Cheltenham 15:30 | Champion Hurdle | ITV1
It’s pretty much the most exciting race of the Festival every year and this year’s Champion Hurdle certainly looks wide open at 11/4 the field. In terms of quality, it’s probably the weakest Day 1 highlight I can recall. Maybe 2002 was worse?
The key contenders
But anyway, let’s be positive and see if we can find the winner. Yanworth heads the betting at 11/4, second at the Festival last year in the Neptune, he’s had a good season with three wins out of three. None of them blew me away though and his win in the Kingwell last month at Wincanton was very untidy.
If Buveur D’Air wins then it will tell you all you need to know about the stature of this year’s race, as this was a horse lined up to go novice chasing this season. Sensing an opportunity as the field petered out, trainer Nicky Henderson sent him back hurdling and his 3rd in last year’s Supreme puts him right in here.
Brain Power is next in the betting. A horse who hasn’t run this calendar year or ever in a Grade 1. He may be really progressive but he’s not for me at 7/1 with average Cheltenham form.
Petit Mouchoir is a horse I like but the lingering feeling I have is whether he’s good enough. Mid-table in last year’s Supreme, he lost to Buveur D’Air at Aintree and has run respectably this season.
He fell in the Fighting Fifth when looking like the winner, then was too smart for Nichols Canyon and Footpad at Christmas before an unimpressive win over the same rivals in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January.
The old boys
My Tent Or Yours and The New One represent the older bunch. These guys would have smashed this lot in the past but the worry is now Father Time has caught up with them.
MTOY comes alive in the Spring at Cheltenham but he’s 10 now and 1981 was the last time a double figure aged horse won this speed test. The New One is a year younger and that might be enough to see him make the frame.
Buveur D’Air’s price has been creeping out in the market and that’s caught my eye. He ran well at Cheltenham over this trip and that form is rock solid with Altior and Min ahead of him.
Switched back to hurdles earlier this year, he won seamlessly at Sandown and in a weak field this year can capitalise under the wily Noel Fehily.
I’ll also have an each way interest in The New One. Yeah, I know! But this is a weak year and this boy loves Cheltenham in March. He can make the frame