The Cheltenham Festival is only a couple of weeks away now and most of the main contenders have had their final prep runs. The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on the first day and it looks the most open renewal in years. The addition of a couple of marvelous mares to the mix has spiced the race up no end. In our 2019 Champion Hurdle preview we use a number of stats to narrow the field, and hopefully uncover the winner. Check out who the stats think will come out on top below and read our Gold Cup stats piece by clicking here.
2019 Champion Hurdle Preview: Age Is An Important Factor
Looking back at past results in the Champion Hurdle, it quickly becomes apparent that horses in a certain age bracket come to the fore. Only two 9yos have won since 1992, while just one 5yo has won since 1985. That suggests that it makes sense to concentrate on horses that are aged between 6yo and 8yo.
A couple of high profile contenders fall by the wayside due to their age. 9yos Pinghshou (66/1) and Supasundae (14/1) don’t make the cut. At the other end of the spectrum, 5yos Espoir D’Allen (14/1), Farclas (100/1), Saldier (20/1) and We Have A Dream (50/1) are counted out.
Cut: Pinghshou; Supasundae; Espoir D’Allen; Farclas; Saldier; We Have A Dream.
2019 Champion Hurdle Preview: Horses For Courses
Another key stat that cannot be overlooked is the importance of previous course form. Since Alderbrook in 1995 only one horse has won this race without having a run at Cheltenham. That was Hurricane Fly in 2011 and of course he went on to win it again in 2013.
However, the fact that 21 of the last 22 winners had course form in the book is a stat you can’t ignore. This hasn’t got a huge effect, though a couple of horses do get the chop. Global Citizen (33/1) has yet to race here, so a line is put through him. The only other horse in the field that hasn’t run at Cheltenham is the Nicky Henderson trained Call Me Lord (50/1).
Cut: Global Citizen; Call Me Lord.
2019 Champion Hurdle Preview: Class Usually Counts
In most Grade 1 races the cream usually rises to the top and the Champion Hurdle is no exception. In the last 12 renewals, 10 of the winners had already won a Grade 1 race. Sublimity (16/1) in 2007 and Rock On Ruby (11/1) in 2012 are the two exceptions. So, which of our remaining horses are ruled out due to this trend?
Wholestone (100/1), Ch’tibello (100/1), Brain Power (20/1), Mohaayed (66/1), Vision des Flos (100/1), Silver Streak (50/1), Charlie Parcs (100/1) and most notably Melon (20/1) fall at this hurdle. Brain Power and Melon are fancied by some shrewd judges to run well, but the stats say otherwise.
Cut: Wholestone; Ch’tibello; Brain Power; Mohaayed; Vision des Flos; Silver Streak; Charlie Parcs; Melon.
2019 Champion Hurdle Preview: The Price Must Be Right
The final stat we will use to cut the field down to the final few contenders is price. For the most part, it has paid to concentrate on horses at the head of the Champion Hurdle Market. If you look back at past results there have been some shocks, but overall the more fancied horses fare well. Since 50/1 shot Beech Road in 1989 only three horses have won at odds of 16/1 or bigger.
Eight horses remain, and one of those is Samcro who looks an extremely unlikely runner. Petit Mouchoir (66/1) and Cilaos Emery (25/1) are culled, and that leaves us with a fantastic five. Sharjah, Verdana Blue, Laurina, Apple’s Jade and the reigning, defending and undisputed Champion, Buveur D’Air.
Cut: Samcro; Petit Mouchoir; Cilaos Emery.
2019 Champion Hurdle Preview: The Verdict
So, five horses remain and incredibly, three of those are mares. However, although she beat a well below par Buveur D’Air at Kempton, Verdana Blue could struggle here. Her form figures at Cheltenham read 434 in Grade 2, Listed and Handicap company. It could be that flatter tracks are more her forte and she might be one to watch for Aintree.
Apple’s Jade is a wonderfully talented mare and she has won three Grade 1s on the bounce. She beat Supasundae 20L at Fairyhouse (20f), Early Doors 26L at Leopardstown (24f) and then Supasundae again by 16L at Leopardstown (16f). That run convinced connections to have a tilt at the big one, instead of going down the Mares’ Hurdle route.
Laurina looked a very smart horse when winning at Punchestown last time (20f). However, she has it to prove against this lot and it will be her toughest assignment to date. If the ground is good Sharjah comes right into the equation. He has a lot to find with Apple’s Jade on a line through Supasundae, but he shouldn’t be discounted in a race that will be run to suit.
Buveur D’Air has shown some chinks in his armour this season, but he is still the top dog. Many people tend to forget it was bottomless ground for his win last season. He was electrifying on decent ground when he first won in 2017, and he comes alive at Cheltenham.
2019 Champion Hurdle Preview: The Stats That Matter Prediction
Apple’s Jade is going to go hard from the front, and that could play into Buveur D’Air’s (and Sharjah’s) hands. Our prediction is for the Champ to retain his crown, with Sharjah and Apple’s Jade filling the places. Those looking for something at a bigger price could do worse than have a pound each way on Silver Streak. He will be suited by a fast run race and looks a lively outsider at odds of 50/1.
- Buveur D’Air (2/1)
- Sharjah (12/1)
- Apple’s Jade (9/4)
- Silver Streak (50/1)