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A field of 10 will go to post in the the Champion Hurdle, the feature race on the first day of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, at 1.30pm. Honeysuckle, the winner of last year’s renewal, is out to extend her unbeaten career record to 15 but faces fresh rivals in the form of 2021 Supreme hero Appreciate It and Red Mills champ Teahupoo, while 2020 Champion Hurdler Epatante leads the home charge.
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Champion Hurdle runners
Trainer: David Pipe Jockey: Tom Scudamore Age: 5 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Second in Triumph last year and improved again when runner-up in Greatwood on C&D return. 1¾ lengths second to Goshen in Kingwell at Wincanton since. Tongue tie added. Could have even more to come.
Trainer: W. P. Mullins Jockey: P. Townend Age: 8 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Most impressive in Supreme at last year’s Festival. Things haven’t been plain sailing with him since (chase campaign postponed due to injury and didn’t make Irish Champion) but remains very exciting.
Glory And Fortune
Trainer: Tom Lacey Jockey: Stan Sheppard Age: 7 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Just gets better and better this season, second to Epatante in Christmas Hurdle before holding on gamely in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. A chunk of improvement will be needed to go close here, though.
Not So Sleepy
Trainer: Hughie Morrison Jockey: Jonathan Burke Age: 10 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Proved better than ever when dead-heating with Epatante in Fighting Fifth at Newcastle but in nothing like the same form when well behind that same rival in Christmas Hurdle. Others preferred.
Trainer: W. P. Mullins Jockey: M. P. Walsh Age: 7 Weight: 11st 10lbs
2020 County winner and has developed into a smart hurdler, albeit one whose limitations have been exposed at the top level, finishing 9¼ lengths fourth to Honeysuckle in Irish Champion. Tongue tie on.
Trainer: Gordon Elliott Jockey: Robbie Power Age: 5 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Took hurdle record to very impressive 6-7 when easily seeing off Darasso by 11 lengths in 2m Gowran Grade 3 last month. Whether he can trouble Honeysuckle remains to be seen but he’s highly talented.
Trainer: Ann Hamilton Jockey: Danny McMenamin Age: 7 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Small stable’s remarkable season typified by this one’s improvement, winning 3 handicaps before taking step up to Graded company in stride at Haydock. Well worth his place at the top table.
Trainer: Gordon Elliott Jockey: J. W. Kennedy Age: 5 Weight: 11st 10lbs
Runner-up at Grade 1 level in Ireland on last 3 starts. Has 6½ lengths to make up with Honeysuckle from Irish Champion and likely playing for places again. Cheekpieces added to regular tongue tie.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson Jockey: Aidan Coleman Age: 8 Weight: 11st 3lbs
Won this in 2020 but could manage only third to Honeysuckle last year. Hasn’t had to be at best to win Fighting Fifth (dead-heat) and Christmas Hurdle this winter and Honeysuckle looks too good again.
Trainer: Henry de Bromhead Jockey: Rachael Blackmore Age: 8 Weight: 11st 3lbs
Stretched her remarkable unbeaten record to 14 when landing third successive Irish Champion last month by 6½ lengths from Zanahiyr. Can’t be opposed as she bids to become first mare to win this twice.
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Champion Hurdle tips
Timeform: HONEYSUCKLE is a mare out of the very top drawer and is strongly fancied to remain unbeaten and land a third successive win at this meeting. It’s tough to see any of those she’s accounted for previously troubling her so what threat there is may come from unexposed pair Teahupoo, who was very good at Gowran last time, and Appreciate It, so impressive in the Supreme last year but not seen since.
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