Yanworth is the one to beat in this year’s Champion Hurdle says the Oddsguru
Stan James Champion Hurdle 2m 1/2f Cheltenham Tuesday – First run in 1927, when the winner, Blaris, pocketed the princely sum of £365 for his effort, next Tuesday’s victor will improve his or her owner’s bank balance, by a cool quarter of a million pounds. It has been a fairly punter friendly event over the last twenty years, with only four winners returning an S.P. Longer than 10/1, and indeed the “Jolly” has come home in front on three of the last five occasions. Willie Mullins has won four of the last six renewals, but Nicky Henderson remains one in front of him with five wins. Indeed Henderson could claim the overall, and outright title if adding another victory, which would put him one in front of the great Peter (Night Nurse, Sea pigeon, Saucy Kit) Easterby.
This year’s renewal looks a pretty open affair, and the stats strongly suggest, that whatever passes the post in front on Tuesday, will have won his penultimate race, and that won’t have been run more than seven weeks prior to the big day. The winner is also unlikely to be older than eight as only four in that age group have won in the last thirty five years. Strong festival form has been essential with fifteen of the last eighteen winners having won or been placed at the previous year’s meeting.
It is obviously a strong contest for trends and the one with the best fit this year is the Alan King trained Yanworth. The exciting 7yo has won seven of his eight starts over hurdles, five of them at Graded level, and but for Barry Geraghty steering such a wide course in last years “Neptune” he might well have a 100% record. Despite travelling considerably further than the rest of the field he was only beaten 1 3/4L by Yorkhill in that 21f contest. However he has won all his three races since, admittedly in more workmanlike than spectacular fashion, but on tracks that didn’t play to his strengths. He will be well served by the return to the the stiffer Prestbury Park course, and reported by previous winning trainer King, (Katchit 2008) to be in tip top condition, looks the one to beat.
Dan Skelton’s 6yo Ch’Tibello gave Yanworth plenty to think about last time in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, when, in receipt of 4lbs, he made Alan King’s horse work for his 1L success. Connections felt that he wasn’t finishing off his races and has had a breathing operation since, which has been pronounced a success, so improvement can be expected. He looked a really talented individual when winning last year’s Scottish Champion Hurdle, and a Grade2 at Haydock in November, where he had last year’s runner up, My Tent Or Yours 4 1/4L back in third. In the hands of master trainer Skelton, guided by uber shrewd owner, Ian Marmion, it will come as no great surprise to see him involved at the business end on Tuesday.
The Henry De Bromhead trained Petit Mouchoir has looked a very progressive animal this season. He was going as well as anything when coming down at the third last in the Grade1 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, and showed there were no ill effects when five weeks later he beat the 2/5 hotpot Nichols Canyon by 7L in a Leopardstown Grade1. A month later he notched up a second Grade1 (Irish Champion Hurdle) when holding on well to beat Tuesday’s opponent Footpad (rec 2lbs) by a length. Clearly progressive he is now rated within 4lbs of Yanworth, is owned by the Gigginstown Stud operation and comes from a stable having a great season so has to be on the shortlist.
If last year’s winner of the Mares Novice Hurdle at the Festival, Limini, is supplemented for Tuesday’s contest, she would be worth considering, as she would be following in the footpath of last years Heroine, stable companion, Annie Power. Following Cheltenham, Limini was placed in her next two races, both at Grade1 level, and was retired for the season. Having her first run for nine months she pleasantly surprised trainer Willie Mullins when easily beating 2/5 fav Apples Jade on Febuary 22nd. Connections feel that she is still on the upgrade and in receipt of that 7lbs mares allowance has to be considered a threat to all.
The Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D’Air has had an unusual preparation for a Champion Hurdle aspirant, winning a couple of small field Novice Chases and a listed Hurdle at Sandown thirty eight days ago. However the 6yo did finish third in last year’s Supreme Novices, and went on to take the Grade1 Novices Hurdle at the Aintree Festival so is not without hope of providing the Master of Seven Barrows with a sixth champion Hurdle.
E.W. : Petit Mouchoir