The Champion Hurdle headlines the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and has a wide-open feel to it this year. This Grade 1 over an extended two miles on the Old course is one of the most interesting renewals for some time.
That means there are plenty of Champion Hurdle runners in the 2020 race targeting Cheltenham glory. Which horses should you have your eye on, though?
Want to get a handle on the form? Check out our full Champion Hurdle preview with this runner by runner guide.
1. Ballyandy – 16/1
Although Ballyandy won the 2016 Champion Bumper here, he has failed to win in seven subsequent starts at Cheltenham. He was third in the Coral Cup 12 months ago for local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and only just got up to land the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock last time out. More is needed from the nine-year-old.
2. Call Me Lord – 16/1
Nicky Henderson always felt Call Me Lord needed to go right-handed, but he proved his trainer wrong when holding Ballyandy by a neck to win the Grade 2 International Hurdle here in December. The seven-year-old has since been beaten in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown, however.
3. Cilaos Emery – 6/1
Willie Mullins has supplemented Cilaos Emery who made very easy work of the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park last time out. Prior to that, this eight-year-old was a progressive novice chaser until falling at Leopardstown. He also beat dual Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon in a Punchestown Grade 1 over the smaller obstacles and that form gives him a shout in this.
4. Coeur Sublime – 14/1
A gallant runner-up in last season’s Triumph Hurdle, Coeur Sublime bolted up at Down Royal on his return to action. This Elliott-trained five-year-old was then a disappointing third at Leopardstown over Christmas but could have more to offer if on a going day.
5. Cornerstone Lad – 33/1
This six-year-old caught the mighty Buveur D’Air on the hop when pulling off a major upset in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in December. Micky Hammond’s horse won’t be given so much rope here and the northern raider wasn’t disgraced under a penalty in the Champion Hurdle Trial. Cornerstone Lad could go well at a big price.
6. Darasso – 40/1
A French import to the Joseph O’Brien stable, Darasso is an unbeaten chaser who has had two spins over hurdles this season. The seven-year-old hasn’t shaped as well in this sphere as last season and also holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase.
7. Darver Star – 10/1
Gavin Cromwell won the Champion Hurdle last year with the ill-fated Espoir D’Allen and now aims eight-year-old Darver Star at this race. He made Honeysuckle pull out all the stops when runner-up in the Irish equivalent at the Dublin Racing Festival and could be a live each-way contender if reproducing that performance.
8. Fusil Raffles – 14/1
Ultra-progressive as a juvenile but skipped Cheltenham last season and pulled up in the Christmas Hurdle, there is more to come from Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s five-year-old Fusil Raffles. Seven Barrows handler Henderson has entered him in the County as well.
9. Gumball – 66/1
Philip Hobbs-trained handicapper Gumball is zero from five in previous visits to this course and very hard to take seriously in the Champion Hurdle as a result. He has the County as an alternative engagement.
10. Le Patriote – 66/1
Mixing it between hurdles and chases this season for Dr Richard Newland, Le Patriote is biting off more than he can chew in this. The eight-year-old did win a handicap here last April, but this demands an awful lot more.
11. Not So Sleepy – 25/1
Hughie Morrison’s experienced Flat horse Not So Sleepy has shown some form over hurdles and is being treated as a Champion Hurdle contender. Winning handicaps is one thing, this race is quite another for the eight-year-old who could contest the County.
12. Pentland Hills – 5/1
It’s a big ask for a Triumph Hurdle winner to follow-up the following year, but Pentland Hills hasn’t shaped too badly this season for Henderson. The five-year-old just ran too freely and faded close home in the International and was beaten by a whisker in the Champion Hurdle Trial, so he’s among the fancied runners here.
13. Petit Mouchoir – 25/1
This Gigginstown-owned grey has been consistent again this season after placing in all the two-mile Grade 1 hurdles in Ireland. Petit Mouchoir is a nine-year-old now, though, so De Bromhead has to be wary of young improvers but he looks sure to run his race.
14. Sharjah – 10/1
Unlucky to be brought down by Buveur D’Air last year, Sharjah has been hit and miss since. Better ground would see the Mullins-trained seven-year-old shorten, and he’s among the Champion Hurdle 2020 tips given as a possible each-way angle into the race.
15. Silver Streak – 20/1
Evan Williams-trained grey Silver Streak represents the best of last year’s form after finishing third behind Espoir D’Allen and Melon. The seven-year-old has something to find with Epatante on Kempton form this term and comes into this with only one win in his last eight starts.
16. Supasundae 10/1
Now a veteran aged 10, 2017 Coral Cup hero Supasundae has been a model of consistency at Grade 1 level ever since that Festival success. He should come on for his fourth in the Irish Champion Hurdle and, despite being the oldest in the line-up here, could go well for trainer Jessica Harrington.
17. Epatante – 7/2
Young Nicky Henderson-trained mare Epatante has made major progress this season from winning a Listed handicap at Newbury to landing the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle around Kempton Park. Her handler and owner JP McManus are the most successful in this race’s history, so the six-year-old is one of the prominent Champion Hurdle runners in the 2020 betting. She didn’t handle the occasion on her last trip to Cheltenham and has been coughing at home, however.
Paddy’s Champion Hurdle tips
An open and weak-looking renewal with many hopefuls to consider. The betting points to Epatante and Henderson has a strong hand, but our Champion Hurdle preview highlights each-way value in the likes of Supasundae and Darver Star, who were both placed in the Irish equivalent at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see another shock winner. The most popular Champion Hurdle 2020 tips are Epatante and Pentland Hills, but even they have questions to answer. Cilaos Emery being supplemented is very interesting on past form with last year’s second Melon.
*All odds correct at time of publication
- Ruby Walsh’s Cheltenham Festival Cheat Sheet
- Mick Fitzgerald: My Top Tips for Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival