The Champion Hurdle needs little introduction.
The most prestigious hurdles race in national hunt racing is run over a distance of 2 miles by the highest rated hurdles racehorses in the sport. Eight hurdles are jumped during the course of the race.
From a betting perspective the Champion Hurdle tends to offer punters some unusually good deals. Bookies are usually keen on getting punters to sign up early in the festival, so you’ll get anything from place specials to money back offers on this race if you wait until race day to place your bets.
Champion Hurdle trends
The massive betting on the Champion Hurdle tends to distort prices, pushing favourites odds well below their statistical odds of winning the race. This means the market’s selection tends to be a hit or miss affair, with horses priced under Evens missing out on the title twice in the last five years.
Ratings tell a truer tale than odds. Just two horses carrying official ratings under 160 have made the places in the last five years – so you can easily thin down genuine contenders by focusing on horses rated 160 and up.
In terms of trial races two stick out, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Horses who have placed in the former or won the latter have taken four of the last five Champion Hurdle titles.
2016 Champion Hurdle field
The Champion Hurdle field has been shaped to some extent by the absence of defending champion, Faugheen, who was injured in mid-February after his wins in the Irish Champion Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle. Without Faugheen in the mix a below-par field finds a filly priced as antepost favourite.
Nominating Annie Power as an antepost favourite has become something of a tradition at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years, despite her resolute inability to win at the festival. In 2016 she found herself amongst the antepost favourites for not only the Champion Hurdle, but also the Mares Hurdle and World Hurdle.
However, there's little she has done to merit this support. She's rarely succeeded against geldings when asked to and her recent victories have been over longer distances than she'll run in the Champion Hurdle. In fact she hasn't won over 16 furlongs since 2013. While she's a classy mare she looks underpriced and offers best value as a lay bet.
Nichols Canyon deserves better than his 5/1 price after taking two wins in Irish Grade 1 hurdles races this season. He was thrashed by 28 lengths by Faugheen last time out, but with six Grade 1 titles beneath his belt still looks like the strongest entry in this field.
Identity Thief brings his recent achievements in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle to the Champion Hurdle. A win in that Grade 1 is an impressive addition to his credentials, but he was less convincing when finishing second in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown last time out.
An outsider to watch is Top Notch. He was a second place finisher in the Triumph Hurdle last season, lost out to Identity Thief by a neck in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle this season and galloped to a 12 length win on a heavy track at Kelso last time out. He also looks a touch underated at 158, and more than a touch overpriced at 20/1.