Path To Prestbury: Buveur D’air, Main Threats and Interesting Outsiders in the Champion Hurdle

Updated: 14/04/2024

There’s nothing quite like the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle. It’s everything that I adore about Horse Racing.

This epic brings every facet of what truly makes a great racehorse into question, testing every element of its competitors over two miles on the hollowed turf in Prestbury Park.

To win this great race, one must ping every hurdle, travel easily at speed and then stay sufficiently up the Cheltenham hill to etch their name in history amongst some of the best racehorses to ever bless us with their presence.

Buveur D’air looks to join a select few in becoming the first horse since the brilliant Istabraq to win three renewals in a row. On paper at least, he looks to have a tremendous chance of doing so.

Buveur D’air

He must be one of the most underappreciated racehorses in a long, long time.

Here we have a horse who before his shock reversal at the hands of Verdana Blue over Christmas, was only beaten by Altior and Min in a show-stopping Supreme Novices Hurdle. He has won two Champion Hurdles, two Aintree Hurdles and generally just wins as he wants.

If Buveur D’air wins the 2019 Champion Hurdle, he’ll go down as one of the greats of racing.

He probably isn’t up to that level of admiration, but there can be no denying we are dealing with a very good horse here.

Nicky Henderson’s charge is tremendously underestimated and doesn’t get anywhere near the respect he deserves.

Despite all of this, I am keen to take on Buveur D’air in this year’s renewal.

As much as I love him, when you consider the fact that Melon pushed him so close last year and the fact that Verdana Blue got the better of him at Kempton, he might just be open to losing his crown this time around.

He has an obvious favourites chance, but cracks might just be appearing of late, albeit the return to Cheltenham will only help his cause.

Basically, I couldn’t turn anyone off backing him, but at the odds I’m happy to avoid him this season.

After Buveur D’air, it’s a tremendously open renewal, and I have my eye on a bit of a shock this year.

Bet on the Champion Hurdle

Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.

The Main Threats

At this juncture at least, I don’t fancy Laurina at all.

Laurina is second favourite, but I seriously struggle to see how there is any value in backing her at 7/2.

She could well be something very special, and I hope she is, but in my opinion for her to be a factor in this she needs to improve a good deal on what she has achieved thus far in her career on the track.

Winning the Mares Novices Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and dominating a weak division is miles away from winning a race as prestigious as the Champion Hurdle.

She won a nothing race at Sandown on her reappearance, and whilst I can see she could well be something special, I simply could not touch her at 7/2.

It’s not entirely out of the question either that she could end up in the Mares Hurdle. Watch this space.

Willie Mullins has at least two other chances in Sharjah and Melon.

Melon ran a huge race when second to Buveur D’Air last year. Despite this, I’m struggling to properly fancy Melon as when you look at his profile overall, he has only ever managed to win a maiden hurdle and a terrible Grade Two affair.

Of course, he’s still open to improvement, but I struggle to see how he could overturn that form with Buveur D’air from last season. He should run his race again, but I’m just not convinced it will be good to enough to go one better this time around.

He’ll be involved no doubt, I just don’t fancy him for win purposes at the odds.

Sharjah has been making hay while the sun shines and fair play to him. His victories though can hardly inspire enough confidence to potentially fancy him for a Champion Hurdle.

He beat Supasundae and Melon (needed the run) at Leopardstown over Christmas, achieving his second Grade One win of the season.  He did however come up short at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018, only finishing eighth in what to my eyes looks a weak renewal of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

He is improving no doubt, rising from his Galway Hurdle victory to winning two Grade One’s – but I think they were weak affairs and I really doubt his credentials for win purposes at least.

Apple’s Jade is next, and connections have been at pains to stress she will almost definitely head for the Mares Hurdle.

Were she to show up, she would of course enter calculations, but she won’t, so there is no point in wasting anyone’s time on her.

It will be interesting to see if that thought process could change if she was able to win the Irish Champion Hurdle in just under two weeks’ time.

For the record, I’d be keen to take her on over two miles at Leopardstown anyway, depending on what shows up against her at the Dublin Racing Festival. I just don’t think she’s quick enough over the minimum trip.

Verdana Blue beat Buveur D’Air at Kempton and I can see the possible angle that were it to turn up good on the day, that she would have a chance.

She has however been beaten in a handicap off a mark of 151 this season, and that doesn’t scream out Champion Hurdle winner to me. I feel she caught Buveur D’Air on an off day and I don’t fancy that happening again.

Samcro is not quick enough over two miles jumping hurdles and you’d need your head examined to fancy him at this point for a Champion Hurdle.

Supasundae isn’t fast enough and is held by Sharjah on form this season, and I just don’t see any scenario where Brain Power is good enough to win a Champion Hurdle.

Bet on the Champion Hurdle

Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.

Interesting Outsiders

There’s something about this year’s Cheltenham Festival that leads me to think well outside the box.

The lack of rain has led to many horses missing engagements, and it has the feel of a year wherein results could be strange.

Three outsiders who could well be very interesting are Global Citizen, Espoir D'Allen & Saldier.

I can see the angle for Global Citizen at his current odds.

It’s easy to forget he was a strong favourite for the Grade One Top Novices' Hurdle at the 2018 Aintree Festival – with Lalor winning that and Bedrock in third. Nothing went right for him that day, but it puts into context the type of horse we could be dealing with here.

He was impressive winning twice this season, particularly last time at Haydock and I’m willing to forgive his poor run in the Christmas Hurdle behind Verdana Blue where early mistakes cost him dearly.

I still have a feeling he won’t be good enough to win this, but he’s as solid an each-way bet as there is in this race, especially at 33/1.

Even though only two five-year-olds have managed to win this race since 1985, I’m intrigued by 20/1 shots Espoir D'Allen and Saldier this year.

Both were very decent juveniles with only an injury stalling Espoir D'Allen’s progress in 2018. Before this he had beaten the eventual Triumph winner Farclas and generally had looked strong in all his performances.

He has since added a Grade Three to his repertoire this season, when impressively winning at Limerick, and prior to that won the Grade Three Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas, a race in which Saldier fell with the race apparently at his mercy.

Espoir D'Allen is six out of seven now over hurdles, he’s definitely talented.

Saldier is a horse who benefitted massively for experience last season, culminating in a classy victory at the Punchestown Festival. He was electric that day and looked to have improved from the jumping issues that had hindered his progress in the two runs beforehand at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse respectively.

Jumping was the issue on Saldier’s last run however, as despite travelling so sweetly alongside Espoir D'Allen coming to the last, he crashed through the hurdle injuring himself in the process. I think Saldier was going to win a shade cosy on that occasion, but that is merely conjecture.

Saldier has been on the sidelines since, but we will hopefully see him again in the aforementioned Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.

I think there is something about Saldier, he has always been a horse I thought a lot of and if he can sort his jumping issues out once again, he could well rapidly improve up the Champion Hurdle pecking order if showing his true colours at Leopardstown. His jumping definitely needs to improve.

Espoir D’allen is similar in that he can only improve and if taking the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas could also find himself climbing a few places in the betting markets.

They both must improve an awful lot no doubt, but for me so does every horse apart from the favourite Buveur D’air. There is no reason either Espoir D’allen or Saldier can’t improve the necessary amount to be at least involved in what appears to be a weaker than usual renewal.

At 20/1, the pair are very tempting.

It might just be one of those years…


0.50 Pts E/W Espoir D’allen 20/1

0.50 Pts E/W Saldier 20/1

Bet on the Champion Hurdle

Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.

The post Path To Prestbury: Buveur D’air, Main Threats and Interesting Outsiders in the Champion Hurdle appeared first on BetBright Blog.

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