The Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Odds reflect the open nature of this year’s renewal. Despite the sustained support for the mare Epatante this still looks up for grabs. In turn, the race will attract perhaps the biggest field since Punjabi beat 22 rivals back in 2009.
Such a large turnout 11 years ago would lead you to believe that a quick time was inevitable. Yet that particular renewal is one of only two runnings in the last 11 years to stop the clock post 4 minutes.
Still, the overall pattern is that the Champion Hurdle is a race where speed is essential, but stamina is imperative.
Look down through the list of Champion Hurdle winners and you will find some of the greats. Istabraq, Hardy Eustace, Brave Inca, Katchit, Jezki, Rock on Ruby, Faugheen and Annie Power all comfortably stayed two and a half miles and more at the highest level.
Champion Hurdle Betting Odds
Nicky Henderson’s mare, Epatante, is a great place to start. Having interviewed Henderson last year he was fairly confident that she was his best chance at the 2019 festival in the Mares Novice Hurdle. However, she was clumsy at her obstacles and was beaten coming down the hill. It unfolded that the daughter of No Risk At All had a physical problem that day brought on by the flu vaccine. Subsequently, Nicky gave her plenty of time to both recover and strengthen up through the summer.
Her two victories this season, at Newbury and then the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park, have been hugely impressive.
The mare demonstrated high cruising speed on each occasion. She’s very efficient at her obstacles and showed a top class turn of foot to put each race to bed between the second last and final flights.
That last run at Kempton Park was a moderately run affair with several of her rivals racing too freely. But, Epatante could only beat what was put in front of her and with the ridiculous mares’ allowance she is at the top of my private ratings.
That however doesn’t automatically mean that she will be the nominated selection for my Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Betting Tips. You can make a strong case, at the relevant prices, for several of her rivals at double figure prices.
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Champion Hurdle Betting Tips
Epatante’s stable mate and last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, Pentland Hills, has been a huge conundrum to me this campaign.
One of the best juvenile jumpers of an obstacle I have seen, he has twice travelled like the wrath of god this season only to find less than expected in the closing stages.
Nico de Boinville offered up the excuse that the gelding ran way too freely when fifth of eight to Call Me Lord in the International Hurdle. But he didn’t duplicate that opinion at Haydock when run down by Ballyandy in The New One Hurdle.
To my eyes though he ran with the choke out even more so at the Merseyside track. I was very happy to lay him on the run from the second last. And that is always the key to assessing any kind of race. Don’t just look at the result. Review the race, keep a close eye on the details. Make sure to look at the split times and include all those facts when coming to your conclusion.
When winning his maiden last season at Plumpton and when battling back to beat Fakir D’Oudaries at Aintree he was also fairly free through the first half mile. But pertinently he settled much better in the Triumph Hurdle which could, to an extent, be down to a mistake at the first hurdle which knocked some much needed sense into him.
He almost strikes me as a bet in play now every time he runs. If settling, there is little need to lay off, but if you have backed the five-year-old and you see him expending excess energy then a sell at around 1.6.
Champion Hurdle Runners
How and why Supasundae ran in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle I will never know. His staying on second in the Ryanair Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle last year maybe the catalyst for the decision. However, as his win in the Aintree Hurdle confirmed, two and a half miles is clearly his optimum trip. Coming down the hill, other horses will outpace him and not for the first time.
Sharjah blotted his copybook with a lack lustre display in this year’s Irish Champion. For some unknown reason his hurdling was uncharacteristically sloppy that day.
However, consistency plagues him and is yet to chalk up a hat-trick of wins (two doubles) in a career of seven wins in 26 outings under rules. Personally, I think success in the Matheson Hurdle flatters his reputation. His rivals went off way too quickly.
Fusil Raffles was hugely underwhelming in the Christmas Hurdle following a workmanlike win in the Elite at Wincanton. Similar to stable mate Pentland Hills in that he needs a solid pace to chase in order to settle. Still, I would be perfectly happy to forgive that run. He remains one of only a handful of entries with scope to improve being a fine physical specimen of a race horse.
On my figures Call Me Lord ran slightly better in defeat in the Contenders Hurdle at his beloved Sandown than his winning performance in the International Hurdle when the race seemingly fell into his lap. Deep ground and a solid pace is the only way he becomes a Champion Hurdler.
Coeur Sublime has not been seen his third to Sharjah in the Matheson. Honeysuckle looks sure to bypass this for the Mares Hurdle.
Verdana Blue comes into calculations on genuinely good ground. Granted such conditions she would be a cast iron top three selection. However, the weather will determine her chance and she would only become an each-way wager granted such conditions. The admirably consistent Silver Streak would also prefer top of the ground, although not as wholly reliant upon it as the mare.
If ran on the more stamina sapping New Course, Thomas Darby could pique an interest. Still, in a big field and off a fast pace, last year’s Supreme runner-up would have strong each-way claims. It is worth noting he has won over the course and distance and arrives here fresh with the distinct possibility of further significant improvement.
Should Envoi Allen run here in preference to the Ballymore he would be of no interest to me whatsoever. Both on the clock and my private ratings he has a bucketful to find with his more experienced rivals.
Champion Hurdle Prediction
In conclusion – It’s not the most original of selections, but EPATANTE is the most upwardly mobile of these. If she continues to progress, and there’s no reason to believe she won’t, then her potent turn of foot could prove way too good for what is an average looking renewal. She is my first port of call in my Cheltenham Champion Hurdle prediction. If you feel her Cheltenham Champion Hurdle betting odds are too short, then next best at bigger prices are the lightly raced Thomas Darby and the still unexposed Fusil Raffles with Pentland Hills both rightly feared if they settle.
Champion Hurdle FAQs
The Champion hurdle will take place on Tuesday 10th March at 15:30.
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Espoir d’Allen won the Champion Hurdle in 2019 ridden by Mark Walsh and trained by Gavin Cromwell. Espoir d’Allen was 16/1 when the began.
The following horses have won the Champion Hurdle three times:
Hatton’s Grace – 1949, 1950, 1951
Sir ken – 1952, 1953, 1954
Persian War – 1968, 1969, 1970
See You Then – 1985, 1986, 1987
Istabraq – 1998, 1999, 2000
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Both Tim Molony and Ruby Walsh have won the Champion Hurdle four times.