Champion Hurdle: Horse-by-horse guide

Yanworth the favourite after just one defeat in eight starts over hurdles – in 2016 Neptune

Stephen Dunphy with Petit Mouchoir out on the gallops at Cheltenham on Monday. He is well suited by front-running tactics which play well here. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Stephen Dunphy with Petit Mouchoir out on the gallops at Cheltenham on Monday. He is well suited by front-running tactics which play well here. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Brain Power – best odds 15-2

A handicapper who put himself into the discussion for this with a smooth five-length success in a valuable Ascot race in December, recording an excellent time. Travels strongly, suggesting he should be able to cope with this major step up in class. Hard to be sure that the track has dried out enough to suit him. Disconcerting that his only weak effort of the season was his only run here. He raced too freely that day but improved significantly in two runs over the next four weeks; risk that he may again be too fresh on this first start for three months.

Buveur D’Air – 9-2

Third in last year’s Supreme, beaten eight lengths in a race that did not work out well for him. Was then too quick for Petit Mouchoir in winning a Grade One at Aintree. Began this season as a novice chaser and won twice but was switched back to hurdles last month as other stars dropped out of this. Not entirely fluent on his return to the smaller obstacles but cruised away from moderate rivals. This is a major step back up in class and ground not as soft as for his midwinter races but probably still has enough juice to show him to good effect.

Ch’Tibello – 33-1

Won a nice pot on heavy going at Haydock in November, though the form isn’t strong. Twice beaten by Yanworth since, by five lengths in the Christmas Hurdle and by just one length in the Kingwell, when he was carrying 4lb less than the winner. Has had a breathing operation within the last month and felt “poorly” for a couple of days afterwards but connections hope he is now ready to show his best once more. Even in a weak year, it would be surprising if he were quite good enough. First-time tongue tie applied.

Cyrus Darius – 40-1

Classy novice two years ago, when he hacked up in a Grade Two at Aintree and won all three hurdles starts by 10 lengths or more. Missed a year with a tendon problem and last of four on his return in January. Back to winning form at Kelso last month but the other two finishers wouldn’t belong anywhere near this level. Requires a major leap of faith, two years after the only piece of form that entitles him to get involved.

Footpad – 20-1

Main thing in his favour is his status as first-string representative of the Willie Mullins stable that has won this race four times in six years. Only third in the Triumph Hurdle last year, beaten seven lengths, suggesting he is not quite good enough, but that was his first year with Mullins and he has probably improved, plus the ground will be slower this time. Nearest finish when a length behind Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time but never really threatened the winner. Needs to take another step forward.

Moon Racer – 10-1

Eight-year-old has only raced six times but won five, being beaten only once, in a top-class race in Ireland. Won a good renewal of the Champion Bumper at the 2015 Festival, with Yanworth back in fourth. His whole experience of racing over hurdles amounts to two small-field runs in the autumn, when his main achievement was beating Ballyandy in both. Lots of talent and hard to know the limit of it but fragile, lacking experience for such a test and unraced for four months.

My Tent Or Yours – 16-1

Trying to be the oldest winner of this race since 1981 and without a win over hurdles since December 2013. Still, good enough for this at his best and beaten just a neck in the 2014 Champion Hurdle. Put up an incredible effort to be second again last year, carrying 7lb more than the winner. Hasn’t run to that level since and suspicion is that he no longer can, especially as he had the ground to suit when only fourth in the Christmas Hurdle. Tends to race freely, undermining his finishing effort.

Petit Mouchoir – 7-1

Well beaten when eighth in last year’s Supreme, his last run in a hood. Much better at Aintree the next month but still outpaced by Buveur D’Air. Moved yards from Mullins to Henry de Bromhead in October and has since put up two career bests, winning Grade Ones at Leopardstown in December and January. May also have won the Fighting Fifth in November but for falling three out. Well suited by front-running tactics, which play well around here, and good chance of an uncontested lead.

Sceau Royal – 33-1

Has hinted at real class in some of his six hurdle wins but has had an unhappy habit of going missing when stepped into Graded company. Poor stable form excuses his flops at Cheltenham and Aintree last spring, while he may have had an infection when fourth in the Fighting Fifth. Seemed to be beaten on merit by Yanworth and Ch’Tibello last time and conditions of this race favour them over him. Not impossible that he could finally put it all together but leap of faith required.

The New One – 14-1

Won a Grade One novice race at the 2013 Festival and an unlucky third in the 2014 Champion Hurdle when a rival fell in front of him. Beaten eight lengths and unplaced in both of the last two years. This is a weaker renewal, so he could get closer, though he was comfortably held by Yanworth in the Christmas Hurdle. On the old side for this at the age of nine, though he has been holding his form well. Likely to find one or two too quick for him once more.

Wicklow Brave – 33-1

Wide-margin handicap winner at the 2015 Festival, putting up the sort of performance that would put him in the argument here. Handful of subsequent hurdle efforts suggest he’s not good enough but there may have been excuses. Running over hurdles for the first time since 2015, having made good money on the Flat last year, winning the Irish Leger and earning a tilt at the Melbourne Cup, his most recent outing. Hasn’t been at his best when fresh in the past, so that absence is a concern. Has sometimes been awkward at the start.

Yanworth – 3-1 favourite

Only defeat in eight starts over hurdles was when second to Yorkhill in last year’s Neptune, when he gave up a lot of ground by racing wide. His stable was badly out of form at the time, so he can be given plenty of credit for that effort. It’s just possible that his stable is again past its peak, having been in fine form since October, though there have been just enough recent winners to give hope on that score. Beat The New One, Ch’Tibello and My Tent with authority in the Christmas Hurdle. Made harder work of beating Ch’Tibello and Sceau Royal at Wincanton last time but the greater test of stamina here ought to help him. Has been winning despite his hurdling technique, which makes him give his obstacles too much air. A tough competitor but no great surprise if he proves vulnerable here again.

Guardian Service

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