Champion Hurdle Ante-Post Odds: Magic needed to beat Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle currently dominates the Champion Hurdle market.
Honeysuckle currently dominates the Champion Hurdle market.

The entries for some of the main hurdle races were released this week, and we’re providing an ante-post preview for all of them. Next up, the Champion Hurdle

Well it’s Honeysuckle isn’t it.

Preview over.

It really could be as easy as that, the mercurial mare looking every bit the winner of the Champion Hurdle for the second time at this stage after a winning return in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in November. We know how good this mare is, she’s very very good, and her odds of 8/11 at this stage more than reflect that. But what are her limitations? When she first burst onto the scene there was a feeling she was just a very good race mare, set to dominate the Mares’ Hurdle à la Quevega, but when she won the Irish Champion Hurdle for a second time in February 2021, it became really apparent that she was a top class, distance versatile super star. Her win in the Champion Hurdle last year was devastating, taking the lead on the turn for home and comfortably seeing out the hill to record a six-and-a-half-length success. Another win in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle followed, before returning in the aforementioned Hatton’s Grace to make it a perfect 13/13, nine of them at Grade 1 level. There’s no apparent chink in her armour, and you would have to be mad to say with your chest out that she will be beaten - though no one will have fun backing an 8/11 chance two months out from the event so we must look for the each-way value in the market - but I certainly think we will be playing for places.

Cheltenham Tips
Champion Hurdle Odds

Odds for the 2022 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival

Runners

Honeysuckle
1
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Appreciate It
1
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Sharjah
1
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Epatante
1
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Zanahiyr
1
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Teahupoo
1
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Quilixios
1
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Saint Roi
1
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Tommys Oscar
1
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Saint Felicien
1
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Adagio
1
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Abacadabras
1
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Echoes In Rain
1
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Aspire Tower
1
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Monmiral
1
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Song For Someone
1
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Buveur Dair
1
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Not So Sleepy
1
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My Mate Mozzie
1
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Goshen
1
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Glory And Fortune
1
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Tritonic
1
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Cask Mate
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Each Way Terms
Odds correct as of 2022-01-28 15:48 Odds subject to change.

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Appreciate It sits below her at a current price of 8/1, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner re-routed to hurdles after Novice Chase plans were shelved due to injury. Yet to be seen since that success, he’s a hard one to measure up. He was obviously very good in the Supreme, obliterating the field by 24-lengths, but the lack of any experience in open company is certainly a worry. He’s currently entered in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival where he’s 7/2 (Honeysuckle is 1/2), so going off this price for what is effectively the same race (Four of the top five for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham dominate the betting for the Irish equivalent) means that maybe he is value at 8/1, but It’s tricky to back a horse stepping out of novice company who you haven’t seen this year at a single figure price, so I’ll reserve my judgement for now.

Sharjah is the last at a single-figure price, with this admirable nine-year-old coming off the back of a record-matching fourth win in the Matheson Hurdle. A much loved, top level performer, there’s a like to lot about him but he is just desperately exposed at this stage and while his form in the Champion Hurdle of B22 is admirable, both times he’s been second he has been there on merit, and there isn’t much to suggest he can reverse the form with Honeysuckle and win it at the fourth time of writing. That said, for both his seconds he’s been sent off an each-way price (16/1 and 9/1 respectively), so it may be worth scalping the market for all the each-way money if he’s still above 5/1 the day of the race - but at 8/1 at this stage he’s best left.

The UK has a lot to answer for after last year’s Cheltenham showing, being truly dominated by the Irish raiders, but I don’t think the Champion Hurdle will be a battle that Britain will be winning any time soon. Epatante is the first from these shores to feature in the market, and maybe my preconceived bias of her will tinge this a little bit, but when you strip everything back, she really just isn’t good enough. She’s a great Mare of course - a multiple Grade 1 winner after all - but the Champion Hurdle she won in 2020 was one of the worst renewals in recent memory (Statistically on the mean average of all the runner’s ratings), and when she faced Honeysuckle, twice last year, she was firmly put in her place. She dead-heated in the Fighting Fifth with Not So Sleepy before beating him proper in the Christmas Hurdle, but none of this form really checks out particularly well and she’ll be back into very deep waters with this field after relatively smooth sailing this term, and I don’t think she’ll be hitting the frame. On Not So Sleepy, he’s a really admirable sort but he probably isn’t Champion Hurdle quality with his odds of 66/1 reflecting this. It would take a career best by some way to feature so I wouldn’t get drawn into the price.

Zanahiyr is another who has been exposed of late, beaten back-to-back by Sharjah in the Morgiana and the Matheson Hurdle respectively. Last year’s Triumph Hurdle fourth has become a good yardstick in open company over hurdles and has a Grade 2 to his name to show for it, but if Sharjah is exposed by Honeysuckle, and Zanahiyr is exposed by Sharjah, then It’ll be some effort to turn it around to win here.

Teahupoo and Quilixios have been having some great battles of late in, with the former coming out on top on both occasions - though Quilixios should have won last time out and somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s an interesting one to weigh up as they’ve only really been knocking ten bells out of each other and are yet to face anyone else of Champion Hurdle calibre. Both young at five, I think in the future they could go on to be great hurdlers but this may come a bit too soon for them, and the concern that they’re yet to face anyone that could be a decent yardstick to see how good they truly are is a worry.

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Cheltenham Festival Offers

The each-way play that catches my eye at this stage is Abacadabras, who at the time of writing is a huge 50/1 chance. Back in 2020, he nearly claimed Cheltenham Festival glory with a head loss to Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle - of course ran over two-miles. His move into open company wasn’t as good as hoped, with nine runs since that Supreme second reaping only two wins, though both were Grade 1s with the Morgiana and the Aintree Hurdle, which he won back in April 2021. He, like many others, is quite exposed - so why him and not the others? Well, he isn’t THAT much more exposed than the likes of Sharjah and Co, but is about 5x the price and that simply can’t be ignored. His latter run over three-miles was disappointing but I don’t think he’ll be tried over that distance again, and he has good enough form behind Honeysuckle over two-miles. His fourth in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle wasn’t completely without hope, finishing only a length behind Epatante - who as previously mentioned is about 5x shorter in price - and prior to that he had the likes of Buzz, Buveur D’Air, Brewin’upastorm, Silver Streak, Song For Someone and Not So Sleepy behind him at Aintree. He’s a bit short of talent to be in that top top category, but he’s comfortably better than those that are around him in the market (the majority of whom were just mentioned) and simply can’t be ignored at a price like 50/1, with course form, as well as Grade 1 form over two-miles under his belt. Do I think he will beat Honeysuckle? No, but I don’t think anyone will, so your money is better placed on a 50/1 chance to feature in the places than it is an 8/1 or 12/1 chance - who can’t really boast that much better form.

A word also has to be given to the old boy Buveur D’Air, who has entries in both the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle. Twice a winner of this race in 2017 and 2018, his career was completely derailed when sustaining a foot injury in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in 2019 - when a piece of wood from the hurdle got stuck in his foot. Since then, he’s only run twice when finishing second and fourth, and although it would be a dream to see him win, the 11-year-old is probably well past his prime and hasn’t been seen this year. He’ll carry a sentimental £5 each-way for me if he lines up, though if we see him roll back the years and beat Honeysuckle, look to the sky and see if pigs are flying.

Champion Hurdle
Abacadabras silk

Abacadabras (EW)

Cheltenham Festival
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