Champion Hurdle Tips - 3:30pm Cheltenham

2019 Champion Hurdle Preview

The feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle where the Nicky Henderson trained Buveur d’Air attempts to win it for the third season in a row. This could be a cracker with the mare Apples Jade taking her chance in this race rather than the easier option of the Mares Hurdle.

The 9yo looks sure to start favourite as he did last year and provide both his trainer and owner J.P.McManus, with their 8th victory in the contest.

Buveur d’Air has only be beaten twice in 15 starts, the first time was at Cheltenham in the 2016 Supreme Novice Hurdle when he was third behind Altior and Min, looking back now that was a terrific effort. His other defeat was a little more worrying in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and he went off the 1-4 favourite. 

He was caught close home by his stable mate Verdana Blue and no excuses have been put forward as to why he couldn’t sweep aside a horse rated 20lbs inferior. Incidentally Verdana Blue is not being considered for this race and is going back on the flat, but that may change if the ground is good.

Maybe the small field and didn’t suit and he did make a bad blunder 3 out which wouldn’t have helped. Either way it wasn’t the perfect prep and his supporters would sooner remember the demolition job he did on Samcro in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle at the beginning of September.

He has since put that poor run behind him with an easy win at Sandown in the Contenders Hurdle, he looked as good as ever that day and it will take a brave man to oppose him in his quest for the hat-trick. 

Apples Jade will be no pushover and the Gordon Elliott trained 7yo gets a hefty sex allowance and that could make all the difference as they come thundering up the Cheltenham hill.

All season the owners, Gigginstown Stud, have insisted that Apples Jade will stick to her own sex but with the demise of Samcro - their other main hope - and the fact that she trounced the boys over two miles at the Dublin Festival has made them change their minds. You cant blame them but you have to just remember that she disappointed her followers last March when she came in season so there are issues with this mare.

In the 2018 race Buveur d’Air won by a neck from the Willie Mullins trained Melon and the 7yo will be fancied once again on a course that suits him well. He was second in the Supreme here in 2017 and was third to My Tent Or Yours in the International Hurdle last season.

Melon started his campaign with a slightly disappointing effort behind stable mate Sharjah in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown at the end of December. It was a messy race and he lost his spot turning for home and never looked like winning from then on. He stayed on to take 4th but the fact that he couldn’t beat the 142-rated Tombstone tells you what a funny race it was.

If nothing else it would have put him nearer to peak fitness and knowing the trainer he will be spot on for the big day when it matters most and looks a pretty solid each way bet at this stage.

The Mullins camp as so often will have more than one dart to throw at the board and possibly their number one contender this year will be the exciting mare Laurina. The 6yo is unbeaten in five starts since coming over from France in 2017 and some will say has a long way to go to prove she is up to this class.

Laurina has only won one Grade 1 contest and that was at Fairyhouse last April when she was a 2-11 favourite, she won that easily by 8 ½  lengths and that followed her victory in the Mares’ race at the Festival. Basically, she has yet to be extended in any of her races so far and looks a very exciting prospect.

Ruby Walsh sat on her for the first time when she cantered home by 48 lengths at Sandown in January for her seasonal debut and said all the right things post-race. She obviously has to improve on her current official rating of 152 when you think her main rival Buveur d’Air is on a mark of 172 at the minute. I think that just emphasises the fact that she hasn’t been over-faced as yet and nobody knows what’s really under the bonnet.

Of the others another Mullins runner with a chance is Sharjah, as already mentioned he won the Ryanair Hurdle from Supasundae (Melon 4th) at the Christmas meeting and had previously won the Morgiana Hurdle from Faugheen when they met at Punchestown in November. 

Those two Grade 1 victories were a big step forward from his previous form and was only 8th in the Supreme last season. In a pretty weak renewal he has to be considered especially if its decent ground.

Brain Power has come back into the picture after aborting his casing career and switching back to the smaller obstacles. He originally went chasing due to him not quite being up to this class but the way he won the International at Cheltenham last time out his connections may think this is his only real option for the rest of the season. 

He’s got a mark of 158 which in theory gives him an outside chance of reaching the frame and with prize money stretching down the order it’s a worthwhile mission I suppose.

Gavin Cromwell saddles Espoir D'Allen, a 5yo who has won all of his three races this season and could be the one for the future rather than today. He is another owned by J.P.McManus and could be used to put some pace in the race for the favourite. Either way this is a nice sort and could go well at a price.

Punters Lounge Tip: Buveur d'Air 2/1 at Betfair - Click Here To Bet

Champion Hurdle Trends
Champion Hurdle Previous Winners
2019Espoir D'Allen5Mark WalshGavin Cromwell16/1
2018Buveur D'Air7Barry GeraghtyNicky Henderson4/6
2017Buveur D'Air6Noel FehilyNicky Henderson5/1
2016Annie Power8Ruby WalshWillie Mullins5/2
2015Faugheen7Ruby WalshWillie Mullins4/5
2014Jezki6Barry GeraghtyJessica Harrington9/1
2013Hurricane Fly9Ruby WalshWillie Mullins13/8
2012Rock On Ruby7Noel FehilyPaul Nicholls11/1
2011Hurricane Fly7Ruby WalshWillie Mullins11/4
2010Binocular6Tony McCoyNicky Henderson9/1
2009Punjabi6Barry GeraghtyNicky Henderson22/1

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