Champion trainer Willie Mullins suffered a huge blow on Monday as it was confirmed that he’s had to pull both Faugheen and Min out of the Cheltenham Festival.
2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen, who failed to defend his crown last season over an injury, is out of the Festival yet again – this time with a stress fracture. He had been the favourite for this year’s Champion Hurdle despite not racing since his win in the Irish Champion Hurdle little more than a year ago.
Meanwhile, Arkle challenger Min will also miss out on Cheltenham after picking up what’s described as a “bone bruise” by Mullins.
As a result of the withdrawals Paddy Power are refunding losing ante-post singles as a free bet on Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle and Min for the Arkle after they were both ruled out. There is no max stake on these refunds either. You beauty!
Faugheen punters have been covered since January 12 thanks to Paddy’s Non Runner No Bet offer. These punters get their money back as cash rather than a free bet. Paddy Power are still NRNB on the four Championship races at the Festival.
The news has seen a massive shift in the Champion Hurdle market – where Faugheen was the 6/4 front-runner – with the Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D’air now taking favouritism. The French gelding, who won the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last Saturday, has moved into 3/1 after been as big as 11/2 when the markets opened.
Another one to see a swing in price is Petit Mouchoir, who’s now 9/2. His recent Irish Champion Hurdle win delighted our new racing ambassador Henry de Bromhead last time out and our traders have wasted no time in cutting him as well.
For his part, Min was the 7/2 second-favourite to secure a win the Arkle Chase and his absence from the Festival has seen Altior – who beat him in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – move into 1/2 favourite, and possible banker material.
Yorkhill is the 5/1 second favourite, but also holds an entry for the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Based on Monday’s story our traders have also priced up who will be the SP favourite to start the Champion Hurdle. Buveur D’Air leads the way at 11/4 and you can see the rest of the odds below:
Who will start as the SP Favourite for the Champion Hurdle?
- Buveur D’Air: 11/4
- Yanworth: 3/1
- Yorkhill: 9/2
- Petit Mouchoir: 6/1
- Jezki: 6/1
- Any Other: 8/1
- Brain Power: 10/1
- The New One: 33/1