The Stan James Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 Hurdle.
The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdle race in the whole calendar and is run for the best hurdlers and takes place on the opening day of the Cheltenham festival.
First Run in 1927 this is the top class hurdle race that all top class two mile hurdlers are aimed at all season.
There have been many multiple winners and the last triple winner was Istabraq 1998/1999/2000.
Well, here it is the 2017 Champion hurdle. Although last year's winner, Annie Power, is not here this is still a very competitive race. The build up to the race has been such that the race is perhaps being felt as not one of the classics. However, this can only be judged in time and who knows we could have some real superstars in the field here today.
We have to start at the head of the market with a very smart Yanworth trained by Alan King. Yanworth has a very impressive record having run over hurdles eight times and only one defeat and that was at last year's Cheltenham Festival where he ran in the Neptune and was beaten on the day by a very smart horse from Willie Mullins named Yorkhill. Other than that race he has been absolutely impeccable. This season he has three wins to his name the first group 2 hurdle at Ascot which he was workmanlike when beating a good but small field on good to soft ground. He then won the Christmas hurdle at Kempton, a grade 1 and winning by a good margin. He was equally impressive on soft at Wincanton on his last appearance. Sure to go well today and has a favourite's chance.
Close to the favourite in the market is the very smart Buveur D'Air the first of Nicky Henderson's three runners. He has five hurdle runs to his name and four wins his only defeat was last season's supreme novice hurdle where he came up against a complete and utter superstar in the form of Altior. After that race he went to the Aintree Festival and beat some really good horses. One of his rivals today Petit Mouchoir was a neck in behind and the highly thought of Limini from the Willie Mullins yard was back in third. This season he has continued his good form winning three times at Haydock, Warwick and most recently a listed hurdle at Sandown. These were all in small fields which seems often to be the case when these really smart horses run up before the Cheltenham Festival. A really good chance of breaking his Festival duck today.
Another of the Nicky Henderson charges is the smart six-year-old Brain Power. He is a really progressive sort and who comes here on the back of a fine win just before Christmas in a grade 3 hurdle at Ascot. He was very impressive that day and went clear of his field very quickly after the last fence. He seems to like good ground and can handle good to soft perfectly well but is only poor run was at this course on soft ground back in November so the drying ground at Cheltenham and the lack of rain for the last couple of days will of help this cause.
The first of the Irish contenders is the six-year-old grey gelding Petit Mouchoir of whom there are good vibes lately. He seems to be the sort of horse that divides opinion. You either seem to be for him or against him but one thing's for sure he has been progressing really nicely this year. At last season's Festival, he was another who got caught behind the superstar Altior, but he did fade quite markedly before the last hurdle. In a year where there's no real superstar he could do well and he definitely seems to be running into form with two group 1 hurdle wins in Ireland since Christmas.
The David Pipe stable has been playing their cards very close to their chest with regards to Moon Racer. He is another horse that is really progressive and has good form and is unbeaten over hurdles. This race was probably put into sharp focus when at the Cheltenham November meeting he was very impressive on soft ground and ran out a really good winner over this trip. He has not been seen since but that should not be too much of a worry because the Pipe team are fully able of getting up horse racecourse fit without actually having them on a racecourse.
Trying this race for the fourth time is the very smart The New One. Nigel Twiston Davies's charge has been really consistent and 2014 he ran really well in this race as a six-year-old and finished third behind Jezki and My tent Or Yours. In 2015 he came up against the mighty Faugheen and finished fifth. Last season he finished one better than that in fourth place behind another Willie Mullins winner Annie Power. So coming back again this nine-year-old has all the experience of the race and comes year in really good form with the only defeat this year has come when he was 2nd to today's favourite in the Christmas hurdle at Kempton. It is perhaps sometimes a little difficult to know exactly how good he is as the connections really think a lot of this horse, but they are talking the horse up again this year and he could just run out of his skin this year. Especially if you consider the connections did have other options for the horse.
Footpad is another runner from the Willie Mullins yard and is a five-year-old progressive horse who was third in last season's Triumph hurdle. His recent form has not been his best and he has been beaten twice by Petit Mouchoir on his last two runs. It is not obvious why he should overturn that form today. Another of the Nicky Henderson's runner is the 10-year-old My Tent or Yours. This horses career progressed really well and he contested this race in 2014 when he was 2nd to Jezki. He went to the Scottish Champion hurdle after that but then had some problems and had to take a long time off. He did not run from that date,12 April 2014 until his comeback race which was in this race on 15 March 2016 where he ran an absolute blinder finishing 2nd to Annie Power. A month later the same thing happened at Aintree again finished 2nd to the same horse. This season although he has been running well he hasn't quite had the sparkle of the past. But who knows he is a horse that runs really well at Cheltenham and we could see a return to top class form today.
The Dan Skelton trained Ch'Tibello is another young progressive sort whose form figures perhaps not quite impressive until you realise that he has been beaten twice by the very smart Yanworth in his last two starts. He will have to improve considerably to win this race today.
It is perhaps not very often that you see a group 1 winner on the flat run over hurdles at Cheltenham. One horse that is doing that is Wicklow Brave. On his last two runs which have been on the flat. On 11th September he won the Irish St Leger over 1 mile and 6 furlongs and that was after being in behind from the gate. He then went over to Australia to run in the Melbourne cup and finished well down the field. He's not coming here totally without hurdle form as in 2014 he ran at the festival finishing sixth in the supreme novice hurdle he returned in 2015 when he was a good winner of the County hurdle. A good horse with plenty of miles on the clock having run under rules 30 times. This is his first run of the year so that would also not be ideal but he is available at a massive price and a good run would not be a total surprise.
Sceau Royal started this season really well winning a hurdle race by 11 lengths after this course on his first show. He then went to the elite hurdle at Wincanton and was equally impressive winning by over nine lengths. He has since been less than impressive in two hurdle races on soft ground. Seems to have lost his way a little but could just be better than his massive odds would suggest. A return to form could see running into a place.
The final runner in the field is Cyrus Darius. He is one with whom a quick look down his form would not necessarily suggest that he's good enough to win this race. He is an eight-year-old with only five hurdle runs, but from that he has had four wins. At the tail end of last season, he ran at the Aintree Festival in the novice hurdle. He was very impressive that day and eat hs field by over 10 lengths. This season he has had two runs the first at Haydock, the Champion hurdle trial where he finished last of the four horses to finish but came back to good form in February winning the 2 mile 2 furlong hurdle on heavy ground by a good margin. He will go on any ground and should give a good account of himself and who knows he could just be a very good horse.
|1||1-3811||Brain Power 87 D||6||11-10||Nicky Henderson||David Mullins|
|2||31-111||Buveur D'Air 38 D||6||11-10||Nicky Henderson||Noel Fehily|
|N/R||-35132||Ch'Tibello 24 D||6||11-10||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
|4||1/1-41||Cyrus Darius 26 D||8||11-10||Malcolm Jefferson||Brian Highes|
|5||-11242||Footpad 44 D||5||11-10||W P Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|6||11/211||Moon Racer 121 CD||8||11-10||David Pipe||Tom Scudamore|
|7||2-3324||My Tent Or Yours 78 D||10||11-10||Nicky Henderson||Aidan Coleman|
|8||-23F11||Petit Mouchoir 44 D||6||11-10||Henry De Bromhead||B.J. Cooper|
|9||6-1143||Sceau Royal 24 CD||5||11-10||Alan King||Daryl Jacob|
|10||4F-121||The New One 52 C D||9||11-10||Nigel Twiston-Davies||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|11||1/033-||Wicklow Brave 472 (133F) C D bf||8||11-10||W P Mullins||Paul Townend|
|12||12-111||Yanworth 24 C D||7||11-10||Alan King||Mark Walsh|
|1||31-111||Buveur D'Air 38 D||6||11-10||Nicky Henderson||Noel Fehily|
|2||2-3324||My Tent Or Yours 78 D||10||11-10||Nicky Henderson||Aidan Coleman|
|3||-23F11||Petit Mouchoir 44 D||6||11-10||Henry De Bromhead||B.J. Cooper|
|4||-11242||Footpad 44 D||5||11-10||W P Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|5||4F-121||The New One 52 C D||9||11-10||Nigel Twiston-Davies||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|6||6-1143||Sceau Royal 24 CD||5||11-10||Alan King||Daryl Jacob|
|7||12-111||Yanworth 24 C D||7||11-10||Alan King||Mark Walsh|
|8||1/033-||Wicklow Brave 472 (133F) C D bf||8||11-10||W P Mullins||Paul Townend|
|9||1-3811||Brain Power 87 D||6||11-10||Nicky Henderson||David Mullins|
|10||1/1-41||Cyrus Darius 26 D||8||11-10||Malcolm Jefferson||Brian Highes|
|N/R||-35132||Ch'Tibello 24 D||6||11-10||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
|P/U||11/211||Moon Racer 121 CD||8||11-10||David Pipe||Tom Scudamore|