STAN JAMES CHAMPION HURDLE
The Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy is a Grade 1 Hurdle for runners aged 4 years and older, which is run over 2 miles and 87 yards at Cheltenham and is the highlight of day 1 of the Festival on Tuesday, 14 March 2017.
The race is considered to be the most prestigious level weight 2 mile hurdle race of the season and always presents an interesting puzzle for punters to assess, with an average field size of just under 12 runners taking part during the past decade.
During this period, 4 favourites have been successful, the remaining 6 winners were sent off at odds ranging from 9/1 to 22/1 which suggests that this is not a particularly easy race for punters to assess.
Irish trained runners have recorded 6 wins during the past decade, including 5 of the last 6 renewals of the race and that champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins has saddled the winner in 4 of the past 6 years, including last year with, Annie Power who alongside Faugheen will miss this years renewal.
CHAMPION HURDLE KEY TRENDS AND STATS
Katchit was the only five-year-old to win since 1985.
Nineteen of the last twenty winners all ran in the same calendar year.
Twenty-five of the last thirty-one winners were winners of their last prep run.
There have only been four winners over the age of eight since 1951.
Eighteen of the last 25 winners had won a race at Cheltenham before.
Irish trained horses have won this race on ten of the last sixteen runnings.
21 of the last 24 winners started in the top six of the betting, prior to the race.
KEY CHAMPION HURDLE TRIAL WINNERS
Coral Hurdle: Yanworth
INTERNATIONAL Hurdle: The New One
Christmas Hurdle: Yanworth
Ryan Air Hurdle: Petit Mouchoir
Irish Champion Hurdle: Petit Mouchoir
A top three finish last time out is essential with 13 of the last 14 winners falling into this bracket, while 10 of those last 14 winners actually won their most recent race. Having raced in the last seven weeks is another big plus, while in terms of age horses 8 or younger have by-far the best recent record – winning 12 of the last 14!
Previous Festival experience is also a big plus with 11 of the last 14 having recorded a top 4 finish at the meeting last season, while having won at least 6 times over hurdles is another trend to look for.
Probably the most open renewal of this race in some time and with out a clear favourite it seems like it could be anyones race. Yanworth hasn't put a foot wrong this season winning all three of his races even though his jumping hasn't been as fluent as many would like, maybe something punters will be worried about come the 14th March. Interestingly his prep race at Wincanton on February 18th was the same race Alan King used for Katchit in 2008, who of course went on to win the Champion Hurdle, maybe that is a tip in itself? He won't be ridden by Barry Geraghty though as he has been ruled out through injury and will instead be ridden by Mark Walsh. Gerraghty has been on board Yanworth for 7 of his 9 victories and a question mark hangs over whether Mark Walsh can produce the goods at Cheltenham on a horse he has never rode. He had The New One a long way behind him in the Christmas Hurdle who in fairness didn't run a bad race but can i see him getting closer to Yanworth in this race? I don't think so, I think the favourtie just has too much class for the Nigel Twiston Davies trained horse but saying that his form figures at Cheltenham read 145312161 so I'm giving him a slight each way squeak at 12/1. Trainer Nicky Henderson has three in the race with his best chance probably being second favourite Buveur D'Air. This horse has never finished out of the top four from nine races winning seven, finishing second, third, and finishing fourth from 19 at Aintree back in 2015. Henderson is very keen on this horse but is just as bullish about Brain Power who you can get a very attractive 7/1 for. He hasn't got the best of records and his only previous run at Cheltenham seen him finish 8th of 16 in the Greatwood Hurdle against a weaker field than he will be competing with on the 14th. He has won his last two races though with a very impressive display at Ascot on the 17th December drawing clear away from 18 rivals. He definitely has a chance but i think he maybe slightly vulnerable to the more class acts in field, definitely one with place claims though. Henderson's 'third string' if you can call him that is My Tent Or Yous who, looking at Cheltenham form is probably over priced at 18/1. He has ran four times at the home of jump racing and has finished second all four occasions. The most impressive of those runners up spots was at last years festival where he stayed on under pressure to claim second behind Annie Power (he had no chance catching the mare) and had the likes of Nicholas Canyon, Identity Thief, The New One and Top Notch all behind him. Not a great prep for this horse finishing fourth from five at Kempton in his last race but he seems to love it here and definitely has place claims if Henderson has him finely tuned. Trainer Henry De Bromhead is relying on French raider Petit Mouchoir to land the spoils and he could have a very good horse here. Winner of the Ryan Air hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle this horse must have a chance and at 5/1 it could be an each way bet to nothing. Something what is worrying though is his only run at Cheltenham resulted in a eight place finish in last years Supreme Novices' Hurdle, he obviously would of come on from that being a year more experienced and has two good prep races winning both, having the likes of Nichols Canyon, Ivanovich Gorbatov, Jer's Girl and Footpad all behind him.
All in all we are in for an absolute treat even with the likes of Annie Power and Faugheen missing and I'm siding with a horse that if he jumps well or even well enough should take all the beating!
Win bet: YANWORTH 3/1
Each way bet: MY TENT OR YOURS 18/1