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2021 Champion Hurdle Tips – Ireland's top mare to blossom again at the Cheltenham Festival

  • We’ve published our guide to the 2021 Champion Hurdle
  • The Champion Hurdle is the main event on day one of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival
  • We're favouring Honeysuckle of last year's winner Epatante
  • Sharjah also catches our eye at an each-way price
honeysuckle cheltenham
Honeysuckle sticks her neck out to beat Benie Des Dieux in the 2020 Mares' Hurdle. (Getty)

The opening afternoon at the Cheltenham Festival is headlined by the Unibet Champion Hurdle. This historic two mile hurdle is one of the most sought-after prizes in all of horse racing, with greats like Persian War, Hatton’s Grace, Istabraq and Hurricane Fly featuring on the Champion Hurdle roll of honour.

Epatante will bid to hand Nicky Henderson a record ninth victory in this historic race when she defends her crown next month. However, last year’s winner has company at the head of the market.

2021 Champion Hurdle Odds


Name
Best Odds
Honeysuckle9/4
Epatante5/1
Silver Streak9/1
Abacadabras12/1
Sharjah14/1
Aspire Tower14/1
Bar20/1

*Odds taken from Unibet on 17/2/21*

2021 Champion Hurdle Tips – The Queen Of Cheltenham


Honeysuckle2021 Champion Hurdle Best BetGET 9/4 HERE
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Epatante ran out an excellent winner of the Champion Hurdle last year, and looked as good as ever when cruising to victory in the Fighting Fifth on her reappearance. Nicky Henderson’s star was then caught out and beaten by the front-running Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle. At the time, Henderson’s horses were getting beat left, right and centre, so that may have attributed to her underwhelming performance, and it’s still far too early to write Epatante off.

Geldings have to give mares seven pounds in the Champion Hurdle. Epatante is already one of the highest-rated hurdlers in the field, so that weight for sex allowance gives the defending champion a massive advantage. However, Epatante will not be the only top-class mare in the field this time around.

HONEYSUCKLE now seems set for the Champion Hurdle, having trounced the best Ireland has to offer in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Henry De Bromhead’s star won the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but had no trouble at all dropping back to the minimum distance, trouncing Abacadabras and Sharjah to win in fabulous fashion.

Four hurdles races took place over two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival, and Honeysuckle set the quickest time - beating the time set by Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle winner, Drop The Anchor by two-and-a-half seconds. What makes that even more impressive is that Honeysuckle took up the running three from home, and was noticeably steadied before the last to ensure she got over it safely. We haven’t seen a better performance than that in Britain or Ireland this season.

Last year, Honeysuckle jumped poorly in the Mares’ Hurdle, and was still strong enough to hold off Benie Des Dieux. Rachael Blackmore’s mount was foot-perfect at Leopardstown, and the presence of confirmed front-runners like Silver Streak, Aspire Tower, Ballyandy and Not So Sleepy will ensure Honeysuckle’s extra stamina comes to the fore in the closing stages.

For me, Honeysuckle is the one to back in feature Championship race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

honeysuckle leopardstown
Honeysuckle jumps the last at Leopardstown. (Getty)

2021 Champion Hurdle Tips – Best Of The Rest


Silver Streak2021 Christmas Hurdle WinnerGET 9/1 HERE
18+ only. Gambling can be addictive. Play responsibly.

Goshen bounded back into the picture at Wincanton, and he certainly has the ability to be a Champion Hurdler. However, he's a bit of a tearaway, and I don't really trust him. Plus, Song For Someone and Navajo Pass both drastically underperformed at Wincanton, so I think Goshen was a little flattered by that performance.

Abacadabras beat Saint Roi in the Morgiana and was sick over Christmas. He has no answer to Honeysuckle when they met at the Dublin Racing Festival, though, and he remains suspect in the finish.

Aspire Tower warrants great respect, but he didn’t handle Cheltenham all that well in last year’s Triumph, and only two five-year-olds have won the Champion Hurdle since the mid-80s. Stablemate Jason The Militant shouldn’t be good enough to land a significant blow, and former Morgiana Hurdle winner Saldier has been in woeful form since returning this term.

Silver Streak will be many people’s each-way selection, having lowered Epatante’s colours at Kempton's Christmas Festival. Yet, Henderson’s mare clearly underperformed that day, and Silver Streak relished good ground around a flat track. The going will be soft on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, and I’m not sure his new front-running tactics will bear fruit this time around.

2021 Champion Hurdle Tips – Each-Way Selection


Sharjah E/W2021 Champion Hurdle Each-Way TipGET 14/1 HERE
18+ only. Gambling can be addictive. Play responsibly.

I’m going to have a saver on SHARJAH at an each-way price. For the second year in a row, Patrick Mullins’ mount was well-beaten behind Honeysuckle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Yet, a poor performance in the Irish Champion Hurdle didn’t stop Sharjah serving it up to Epatante in last year’s Champion Hurdle, where he came from off the pace and pushed the winner all the way to the line.

Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old comfortably beat Ireland's other leading contenders - all of whom had race-fitness on their side - to win his third-straight Matheson's Hurdle over Christmas. Patrick said in a recent interview after winning his third Matheson Hurdle that he thinks Sharjah might have beaten Epatante, were he to have sat a little closer to the pace from the get-go.

For some reason, the Dublin Racing Festival simply doesn’t agree with Sharjah. I’m more than happy to put a line through that outing, and you can bet your hat that Patrick and Willie Mullins will have concocted a game plan to give the mares a good run for their money. Sharjah is the best each-way alternative to the top two in the market.

epatante
Epatante (left) beats Sharjah (centre) in the 2020 Champion Hurdle. (Getty)

US

Verdict

In what could turn into the battle of the mares, we're backing Honeysuckle to get the better of Epatante and win her first Champion Hurdle.

Sharjah's poor showing at the Dublin Racing Festival has seen Willie Mullins' four-time Grade One winner slip to an appealing each-way price, and he looks the best alternative.

2021 Champion Hurdle Tip 1: Honeysuckle Straight Win @225.00 at Unibet - 25 Units
2021 Champion Hurdle Tip 2: Sharjah Each-Way @1400.0 at Unibet - 5 Units

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