This year’s Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, the showcase event on Day 1 of the festival is an open affair. In the renewal, Solwhit, Zaynar, Go Native, Binocular each have very real chances, they are racing in the company of previous winners Punjabi and Katchit and Sublimity.
Tony McCoy believes last year’s 6-4 Champion Hurdle favourite Binocular to be a serious contender for the race; he is currently 8-1 for the renewal. The French-bred Gelding has won just once since November 2008, the same year he finished second in the Supreme Novices Hurdle to Captain Cee Bee.
The diminutive Katchit claimed his last victory also in 2008 and Punjabi’s last victory came in the 2009 renewal of the Champion Hurdle. Sublimity, the 2007 winner of this race has won just once in three years, a victory at the December Festival Hurdle in 2008. This year’s campaign has seen him place twice behind Solwhit and once behind Go Native.
Six of the last ten winners have been trained in Ireland, Solwhit and Go Native represents the strongest Irish challenge this year. Slight preference must go to the winner of the Aintree hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle, the Charles Byrnes trained Solwhit who is a tough, intelligent horse. Solwhit races consistently well in Grade 1 company and is a worthy favourite for this year’s race.
Last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle winner, Go Native, trained by Noel Meade has beaten Solwhit this term in the Fighting Fifth hurdle in Newcastle (at odds of 25-1) and he also beat Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. He has a serious chance in the Champion Hurdle and stays on well in latter parts of races
Zaynar, a 5 year old trained by Nicky Henderson and winner of last years Triumph Hurdle is still unbeaten in all his starts over timber. He has won at distances of 2 miles to 2 miles 4 furlongs and possesses a very fast turn of foot. However, mindful of his age, It may be worth noting that Katchit who won the race in 2008 was the first 5 year old to do so since 1985
Solwhit, with several big runs under his belt is taken to keep improving and take the Champion Hurdle title his jockey Davy Russell was also quoted as saying after his last race that “The hill at Cheltenham is tailor-made for him".
Few would discount his chances.
• Out of the last 25 winners of the Champion hurdle, 22 of them won their previous race.
• Champion Hurdle past winners, have often come back and completed the double. The most recent of these was Hardy Eustace in 2004 and 2005.
• Four out of the past ten winners have been favourite in the Champion Hurdle betting.
• There have been only three winners over the age of 8 for the last 58 years.
• Over the last seventeen runnings of the race, fourteen of the winners have won or been second at the Cheltenham Festival before.
Tip: Solwhit (pictured below)