Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Cheltenham) Betting Tips & Preview – Tuesday 13th March 2018

The hurdlers take centre stage on the opening day as the speediest jumpers in the game tackle the two mile trip of the Champion Hurdle. We are likely to see the first odds-on shot of the meeting, so the pressure is on for Buveur d’Air. Will he deliver?

Hardy Eustace was the last runner to successfully defend his Champion Hurdle crown back in 2005, but we will be backing the jolly for back to back successes this year.

Top Tips

Buveur D’Air to win @ 4/7

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Information

2m½f is the trip for the Grade 1 feature on the opening day. With £450,000 in total prize money up for grabs, 13 are expected to go to post despite the presence of an overwhelming favourite in the field. Heavy conditions mean an ability to see out the distance well is a must.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Heavy 2m½f Grade 1 £450,000 13 1/4 1-3

Recent Winners

Predominantly a test of speed, it is no surprise that this contest has favoured the younger runners. Eight of the past 10 winners have been aged seven or younger.

Willie Mullins boasts the best record of the trainers over this period, with four wins. Nicky Henderson sits on three victories in the past decade though and may well level things up in 2018.

2017 Buveur d’Air 5/1 Nicky Henderson Noel Fehily
2016 Annie Power 5/2 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2015 Faugheen 4/5 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2014 Jezki 9/1 Jessica Harrinton Barry Geraghty
2013 Hurricane Fly 13/8 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh

Analysis: Buveur The Banker On Day 1

There may be something lurking in the field to surprise us - with the youngster Melon perhaps the most likely to put up a big career best - but this doesn’t look a vintage renewal on paper and the favourite should take some stopping.

Awesome Air To Do It Again

Of all the championship races at the festival week, the easiest to call purely on recent form is this contest. Defending champion Buveur d’Air has simply produced a level of class and consistency this term that his rivals are unable to match. A cantering success in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle was followed by a turbo charged display in the Christmas Hurdle, and whilst his latest win at Sandown was the least impressive visually, he was still able to win eased down. The deterioration of the ground to heavy also seems unlikely to prove an issue. Unbeaten over hurdles on soft, his sole start on heavy saw him win a Listed contest at Sandown with his head in his chest.

Faugheen Fans Pin Hopes On Pieces

What to make of 2015 champion Faugheen? “The Machine” is undoubtedly one of the most impressive National Hunt horses of the past decade, but the question is what sort of state is he in headed into this? A 16-length win on his return from injury in November suggested he would be a major player here. Having then been pulled up on his next start it started to appear he had very little chance at all.

His latest effort when runner up to Supasundae in the Irish Champion lies somewhere in between those extremes. On the plus side, he does handle heavy going well and despite being 10 years old, he probably remains the only horse in the race with the class to trouble the favourite, if – and it’s a big if – he returns to anything like his best.

Yorkhill To Bounce Back At Favourite Track

Willie Mullins is a master at placing his horses to best effect, but if there is one runner who has left him scratching his head more than any other this term, it is surely the enigma that is Yorkhill. Brought back in the Christmas Chase in an effort to test his Gold Cup credentials, he was stuffed to the tune of 59 lengths. Back down in trip then for a Champion Chase Trial in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown, the result was even worse with the Graham Wylie-owned runner coming home 81 lengths in arrears that time.

On the back of those two runs one might wonder what he is even doing at the Cheltenham Festival at all. However, he does like it here. Two starts at Cheltenham in March have yielded wins in the 2016 Neptune and 2017 JLT. Despite his recent troubles, Yorkhill does have bags of class when right, but can he show his true colours dropped back to two miles over hurdles?

Final Verdict

We would love to see Faugheen turn back the clock, and stranger things have certainly happened over the years. He really does appear the only realistic danger to Buveur D’Air though, and banking on cheekpieces improving a 10 year old feels a little like clutching at straws.

It has to be Buveur d’Air here. Barring My Tent Or Yours and perhaps the improving Elgin, - neither of whom really look good enough at this stage in their careers - all of the JP McManus runner’s other rivals appear to have significant questions to answer. Take the favourite to stamp his class on proceedings with another impressive display.

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