The Unibet 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.
The champion hurdle looks a really good contest this year with the addition of two top class mares taking part.
Buveur D’Air comes here looking for his third win in the race. His first win in 2017 was a really good race but last season win was far more workmanlike but did find more when under pressure. He seems not to be getting the credit he deserves as his two passed wins are seen to not have been against top class horses but his race record is very good with 12 wins from 14 runs and never been out of the frame. He may not actually start favourite for the race with the very smart Apple’s Jade being sent here instead of connection favoured initial run in the mares. He really is a top-class horse and should take all the beating.
Apple’s Jade looks like starting favourite for this race having now been entered here in favour of the mare’s race. She is a really good mare and has been a revelation this season being unbeaten. She was 3rd in last years mares’ race and looked a bit one paced at the end of the race but ran much better winning in 2017 and has looked in that sort of form this season especially in her win in the Irish Champion hurdle win by 16l in February. She is a top-class mare and does get a 7lb mares weight allowance in the race. Must go well.
Laurina is another mare that has been entered in this race and is another top-class mare. Unbeaten this and last season she has progressed really well. She won the Mares novice hurdle at the festival last season and has been running really well against her own sex in races. Taking on the geldings will be a tougher task but again she is getting the mares allowance in the race. She is trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh who have great records at the festival and a great record in this race so she is another sure to go well.
Melon comes here on the back of two lacklustre runs. He was a good second to Buveur D’Air last year and a return to that form will stand him in good stead. He usually runs well at the festival and is sure to put up a good run in this competitive race.
Another Willie Mullins entry is Sharjah. He was a good horse on the flat and is better over hurdles. He has had a good season running in Ireland winning two grade 1 hurdles. He is another who has a bit to find to take place in the end of the race and Ruby Walsh selected another of the stable’s horses.
Verdana Blue is the third horse from the Nicky Henderson yard and he turned over his stablemate Buveur D’Air at Kempton on boxing day. He has not got the credit for that win and his stablemate was long odds on to win. They were both flat out at the end of the race and the win looked fair and square but he subsequently was second behind Gumball and did not look like the same horse. IN his favour he has the help of last seasons festival top jockey Davy Russell and he often finds a bit more from horses at this course.
Espoir D’Allen has only been beaten once in his career and that was in a Grade 1. He is a good horse and improving but looks below this class at the moment. A 5-year-old he will have more to come in the future but it looks currently if he will struggle against some of these.
Brain Power ran a great race at last year’s festival in the Arkle Chase. He finished 2nd to Footpad and although he 14l behind the winner he did have some good horses in behind. Although he did not really have a chance of winning, he was staying on at the end of the race. He fell at the Aintree festival a few weeks later. He was poor on his first chase start this season on this course and was then sent back over hurdles in the Cheltenham December meeting. He ran really well and seemed to be enjoying his racing much better over the smaller obstacles and won well. All that said he does have a lot to find with the principles of this race and would be a surprise winner.
Global Citizen comes here on the back of a good Grade 2 race but with no previous Cheltenham form looks to have it all to do.
Silver Streak looks to be something of an enigma running here and he is the lowest rated horse in the field, but he is only 6 years old but has run 22 times with 7 on the flat. He is improving all the time over hurdles and showed some form over this course in a grade 2 in December. He could be anything and his massive price looks out of place here.
Well there you have the form and it would seem that the race could well be run between last years winner and the two mares. I have little doubt in my mind that if they all ran off level weights that Buveur D’Air would come out on top but the with the two mares getting the 7lb allowance brings them much closer together. Laurina although she has a good record and has been winning by wide margins in her races (6l and 48l last two wins) these have been in lower grade listed races. That is not to say she can’t step up and she is a festival winner, she looks to have the most improvement to show. Apple’s Jade on the other hand looks the real deal this season. She did not run well at last season’s festival although she was found to be in season which connections are sure will not be the problem this season. The 7lb allowance for a horse this good really does swing the pendulum in her favour and it is sure to be a good race but I still feel that Buveur D’Air will find more when asked he just gets the nod here.
Race Conditions £450,000 guaranteed For 4yo+ which are allotted a rating of 130 or more by the BHA Handicapper following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run up to and including the day prior to confirmation. Horses which are not qualified for a rating in Great Britain, Ireland or France may also be entered. Such horses may be eligible providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse's racecourse performances up to and including the day prior to confirmation would merit a minimum rating of 130. The decision of the BHA Handicapper shall be final. Weights 4yo 11st 2lb; 5yo+ 11st 10lb Allowances fillies & mares 7lb
|1||UF2F-41 • CD • GELDING||Brain Power (IRE) p||8||11st 10lbs||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville||158|
|2||111-121 • CD • GELDING||Buveur d'Air (FR)||8||11st 10lbs||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty||172|
|3||114-111 • GELDING||Espoir d'Allen (FR)||5||11st 10lbs||Gavin Cromwell||Mark Walsh||162|
|4||16-2141 • D • GELDING||Global Citizen (IRE)||7||11st 10lbs||Ben Pauling||David Bass||159|
|5||352F-44 • GELDING||Melon (GB) p||7||11st 10lbs||W. P. Mullins||P. Townend||165|
|6||6-31311 • GELDING||Sharjah (FR)||6||11st 10lbs||W. P. Mullins||Mr P. W. Mullins||165|
|7||6-11222 • D • GELDING||Silver Streak (IRE)||6||11st 10lbs||Evan Williams||Adam Wedge||156|
|8||33-1111 • C • MARE||Apple's Jade (FR) T||7||11st 3lbs||Gordon Elliott||Jack Kennedy||166|
|9||1111-11 • CD • MARE||Laurina (FR)||6||11st 3lbs||W. P. Mullins||R. Walsh||159|
|10||00-1141 • D • MARE||Verdana Blue (IRE)||7||11st 3lbs||Nicky Henderson||Davy Russell||157|
|1||114-111 • GELDING||Espoir d'Allen (FR)||5||11st 10lbs||Gavin Cromwell||Mark Walsh||162|
|2||352F-44 • GELDING||Melon (GB) p||7||11st 10lbs||W. P. Mullins||P. Townend||165|
|3||6-11222 • D • GELDING||Silver Streak (IRE)||6||11st 10lbs||Evan Williams||Adam Wedge||156|
|4||1111-11 • CD • MARE||Laurina (FR)||6||11st 3lbs||W. P. Mullins||R. Walsh||159|
|5||00-1141 • D • MARE||Verdana Blue (IRE)||7||11st 3lbs||Nicky Henderson||Davy Russell||157|
|6||33-1111 • C • MARE||Apple's Jade (FR) T||7||11st 3lbs||Gordon Elliott||Jack Kennedy||166|
|7||16-2141 • D • GELDING||Global Citizen (IRE)||7||11st 10lbs||Ben Pauling||David Bass||159|
|BD||6-31311 • GELDING||Sharjah (FR)||6||11st 10lbs||W. P. Mullins||Mr P. W. Mullins||165|
|F||111-121 • CD • GELDING||Buveur d'Air (FR)||8||11st 10lbs||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty||172|
|PU||UF2F-41 • CD • GELDING||Brain Power (IRE) p||8||11st 10lbs||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville||158|
BUVEUR D’AIR (FR) wore earplugs. BRAIN POWER (IRE) and LAURINA (FR) both wore earplugs which were removed at the start.
The performance of APPLE’S JADE (FR), which started favourite and finished sixth of seven finishers, was considered. Gordon Elliott could offer no explanation for the mare’s performance. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of APPLE’S JADE (FR) during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.
The race was the first on the day which started first time and all got away well with Apple's Jade Lorina and Melon taking up the running.
All was well until the third fence when the raining champion Buveur D’Air hit a hurdle and fell bringing Sharjah down at the same time.
The winner Espoir D’Allen was going well throughout the race and took the lead from Melon two out and went on impressively to win by 15l
Melon led or disputed the lead all the way until the second last. Hi make a mistake at the last and finished tired.
Silver Streak was held in in the rear before making great progress down the hill and kept on well to take 3rd odds of 80/1
Laurina was up with the pace and looked to be going well until the field came down the hill the then did not find any extra but stayed on at one pace.
Verdana Blue was help up and stayed on but never troubled the leaders
Apple’s Jade was up with the leaders, made a mistake at the 2nd but lost her place at the top of the hill and went backwards quickly.
Global Citizen was in midfield until the pace quickened and was soon beaten.
Brain Power was held up but was never going well and was pulled up before 3 from home.
The Champion Hurdle is sponsored by Unibet