Last week we looked at the stats that mattered for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and this time we will follow a similar approach for the Champion Hurdle. Injuries to the likes of Faugheen and last year’s heroine Annie Power have blown this race wide apart, and the rumour that Limini would be supplemented has proved to be false. It looks one of the most open renewals for some time and to find out who the stats favour, just read below.
Last 5 Champion Hurdle Winners
|2016||Annie Power||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh||8||5/2fav|
|2015||Faugheen||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh||7||4/6fav|
|2014||Jezki||Jessica Harrington||Barry Geraghty||6||9/1|
|2013||Hurricane Fly||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh||9||13/8fav|
|2012||Rock On Ruby||Paul Nicholls||Noel Fehilly||7||11/1|
Age Is More Than Just A Number
Back in 1981 an 11yo called Sea Pigeon won this race for the second time and in the 35 years since no horse older than 9yo has triumphed. Three 9yos have come home in front in that period, the last being the evergreen Hurricane Fly back in 2013. Just like us, horses slow down as they get older so this trend is no surprise given the emphasis on speed in this contest.
Since the turn of the century just one 5yo has triumphed, Katchit at odds of 10/1 for Alan King in 2008. Seven has been the magic number since 2000, with six 7yos winning in total. 8yos are next best with four wins, while 6yos have won the Champion Hurdle on three occasions in that time. That information would suggest that it pays to side with 6yos, 7yos and 8yos. Consequently, we can discount six of the nineteen that remain and we will try to narrow the field further below.
Recent Winning Form
Since 2010, four of the six winners of this race had won at least two in a row before heading to Cheltenham. The exceptions to this rule were Rock On Ruby in 2012 and Jezki in 2014. Annie Power (2016), Faugheen (2015) and Hurricane Fly (2011, 2013) all came into the race on the back of multiple wins and went on to claim the prize.
This stat allows us to narrow the field dramatically and we can put lines through the likes of Nichols Canyon, The New One and Footpad. Moon Racer and Vroum Vroum Mag look most likely to head elsewhere next week, so that leaves us with four to choose from and unsurprisingly, they are near the head of the market. Yanworth, Brain Power, Petit Mouchoir and Buveur D’Air are the last horses standing, but which of them will survive the final cut.
The Final Cut
Due to the race cutting up so much, the UK trainers have their best chance of getting back into the winner’s enclosure since Rock On Ruby in 2012. Nicky Henderson has won this a record five times, and in Buveur D’Air he has a fascinating contender. Brain Power has yet to prove he can mix it at the highest level, and Grade 1 winner Yanworth has a much more attractive profile. However, his hurdling technique leaves a lot to be desired and in a race of this nature even one mistake can be very costly.
Petit Mouchoir should run a big race, but he didn’t impress last time when beating Footpad. Buveur D’Air had his measure on the two occasions they met last year, including here in the Supreme. The Henderson horse was mightily impressive when winning hard on the steel at Sandown last time and Petit Mouchoir had the run of the race and couldn’t beat him when they met at Aintree. I haven’t seen enough evidence to suggest that he can turn the form around. Yanworth can chase those two home in third and despite the high-profile absentees, hopefully this race turns out to be a thriller.
Champion Hurdle Prediction: 1. Buveur D’Air 2. Petit Mouchoir 3. Yanworth