Last year’s race
- Winner: Buveur D'air
- Jockey: N D Fehily
- Trainer: N J Henderson
- Owner: Mr John P McManus
- Age: 6 Weight: 11st 10lb
- Starting Price: 5/1
- Season Form Figures: 111
- Previous Best: 1st - Top Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1), Aintree (Apr 2016)
For any championship race at the Festival, revisiting the previous season’s renewal is the starting point for many and last season’s Champion Hurdle has featured eight of the last 18 winners. No unplaced horse from the previous year’s running has won for 24 years and a total of 22 of the last 33 winners finished in the first four at last season’s Festival.
Last year’s smooth-as-silk winner Buveur D’Air looks like he will start at odds-on to extend that record further and give the race’s leading trainer, Nicky Henderson, a seventh success after See You Then (x3), Punjabi, Binocular and last year’s winner. His owner, J P McManus, is also chasing a Champion Hurdle magnificent seven. There have been 12 back-to-back winners since the race was first run 1927 of which five went on to complete a hat-trick in the race.
His hurdling has been super-slick in winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle looking an even better model this season not having switched his attentions from chasing to hurdling half-way through. The Fighting Fifth has been a good pointer of late. The winner, for example, placed in four successive Champion Hurdles between 2011-2014. Not only that but Katchit improved on his third place to win the big one which sparked off a notable revival as the 2009 and 2010 Champion Hurdlers then also ran in the North’s premier 2m hurdle. I say revival as prior to Katchit, no Fighting Fifth participant had won the Champion Hurdle for 18 years.
Buveur D’Air’s hurdling speed was even more frightening at Kempton than Newcastle when he beat The New One to win the Christmas Hurdle. Winners of that prize have generally underperformed in the Champion Hurdle as only Kribensis and Faugheen have doubled up in the Champion Hurdle from the last 25 to try. Yanworth was a big disappointment as Champion Hurdle favourite last season having won the Christmas Hurdle.
The Fighting Fifth has been a good pointer of late - the winner placed in four successive Champion Hurdles between 2011-2014 and Katchit improved on his third place to win the big one.
The ten-year-old Faugheen took the 2015 running and in doing so became just the second horse since Granville Again in 1993 to win having not run in a recognised trial since the turn of the year. Hopefully he will bid to become the third horse to regain their crown after losing it, the others being Comedy Of Errors and Hurricane Fly. Age isn’t on his side though. Royal Gait, Rooster Booster or Hurricane Fly won at the age of nine but when a contender reaches the age of ten for any of the championship races at Cheltenham then we should start to get twitchy and only two horses have won aged 10+ in Champion Hurdle history and, significantly, they were defending title holders. At present he is shortest priced Irish-trained horse to give them a fourteenth Champion Hurdle going back to 1998.
That big age stat is also against the x3 runner-up, My Tent Or Yours, who is now aged eleven. Theatreworld also finished runner-up on three consecutive occasions. My Tent Or Yours made the most of the 6lb he received from the Stayers’ Hurdle-bound The New One when he beat him into second in the International Hurdle on his seasonal debut.
The pick of last season’s novices may be Melon who finished second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Getting beaten in that race has not been a hindrance at all in recent years as supporters of Sublimity (4th), Jezki (3rd) and Buveur D’Air (3rd) will testify won the Champion Hurdle on the corresponding day 12 months later. In addition, Hors la Loi III, Brave Inca and Binocular contested the Supreme in an earlier season before winning the Champion Hurdle. The Ballymore (formerly the Neptune) has also been a good guide doesn’t have an obvious contender this season.
Last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner Defi du Seuil looks the pick of the five-year-olds at present, but the record of 5yos since See You Then won back in 1985 reads one winner (Katchit) from 100 to try. Six five-year-olds have hit the frame from 28 runners in the last 11 runnings however.
The Kingwell Hurdle is ideally positioned 3½ weeks away from the Champion Hurdle for connections to put the final touches to their preparations and was the final prep-race for Hors La Loi III, Katchit and Punjabi since 2002 and Kribensis and Alderbrook during the 1990s. It is now starting to fall out of fashion though but the progressive five-year-old Call Me Lord is reported to be heading here.
At a glance summary
- Trained in Ireland or by Nicky Henderson
- Finished in the first four at last season’s Cheltenham Festival
- Contested the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (for each-way purposes)
- Five-year-olds (for win-only purposes)
- Aged 10+
- Not run during the same calendar year
- Unplaced in last year’s race