Champion Hurdle, 2m, March 15, 3.30pm
Key Stat: The winner of the Fighting Fifth hurdle has been placed in the Champion Hurdle in four of the last five years.
Faugheen’s absence means his quest to become the 50th horse to win the Champion Hurdle more than once is on ice but Willie Mullins could still have the first three in the betting as Irish-based trainers chase their 13th Champion Hurdle since 1998.
His victory last season made him just the second horse since Granville Again in 1993 to win having not run in a recognised trial since the turn of the year, while only six of the last 32 Champion Hurdles were won by a horse beaten last time out.
If you like the Fighting Fifth winner, Identity Thief as an each-way play, then you should be encouraged that the winner of that race has gone on to hit the frame in four of the last five years. Nicky Henderson’s Punjabi completed the double in 2008/09.
Despite looking a far more open contest in Faugheen’s absence, 11 of the last 15 winners could still be found in the first four in the betting and 21 of the last 31 winners had finished in the first four at the Festival the previous season.
Revisiting the previous season’s renewal is a good starting point and the previous season’s Champion Hurdle has featured eight of the last 16 winners. (Arctic Fire & the now-retired Hurricane Fly second & third last year).
My Tent or Yours finished runner-up two years ago to Jezki but could be having his first run in over 12 months on the day.
In victory 12 months ago Faugheen was giving Irish-based trainers their 12 Champion Hurdle since 1998.
The leading British hope may end up being Peace And Co but last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner has the age stats to defy being a five-year-old. However, he is trained by a man who has done rather well with five-year-olds in the Champion Hurdle winning it with See You Then and has also prepared four others to hit the frame. Since See You Then won back in 1985, 94 five-year-olds have tried in the interim with just Katchit proving successful but it is worth pointing out that six five-year-olds have hit the frame in the last nine seasons from a total of 22 to line up.
Henderson also has the eight-year-old, My Tent Or Yours, in the mix who finished runner-up two years ago but missed last season through injury.