Honeysuckle, Cheltenham Champion Hurdle

A look at the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle

The feature on day one of the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle, a blistering test of speed endurance over the smaller obstacles.

Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle blew away the opposition to claim the top prize in 2021 and Irish-trained runners have won six of the last 10 renewals of this Cheltenham Champions Day contest. 

She is one of the leading contenders for the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle once again as we look at who could win the 2022 edition.  

Honeysuckle 

The defending champion made it 11 races unbeaten when sprinting up the Cheltenham Hill in the spring. 

She then completed the Champion Hurdle treble when adding the Punchestown trophy to her Irish and Cheltenham equivalents in late April.   

Her Cheltenham Champion Hurdle success kickstarted a fantastic week for trainer De Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore, who both finished the Cheltenham Festival with six winners.  

She looked better than ever when reappearing for a third successive victory in Fairyhouse’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, increasing the distance she beat the second Ronald Pump from half a length in 2020 to a whopping eight lengths this time around.

The fiery daughter of Sulamani is now 8/11 to become the first back-to-back winner since Buveur D’Air in 2018 and 2019 and little of the action over the Christmas period will be giving her much to worry about. 

She has the division at her feet and is the one they all have to pass if they want to take her place on top spot.  

Appreciate It 

An emphatic winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021, this future star is priced at 6/1 to take the Champion Hurdle crown in March 2022.  

Chasing appears to be on hold for the son of Jeremy with handler Willie Mullins confirming that following a setback, the seven-year-old would be aimed at the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle.  

He is still yet to be seen this term and backers may wish to wait until he has advertised his claims on track before striking a wager.

Sharjah 

Second in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle in the past two seasons, Mullins’ eight-year-old is a standing dish in this contest and hopes to make it fourth time lucky in the opening-day highlight.  

Listed at 8/1 in the Champion Hurdle betting, he returned to win the Morgiana Hurdle for a second time at Punchestown in November and made it four straight wins in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. 

He could struggle to achieve his ultimate ambition of dethroning Honeysuckle but you will struggle to find a more genuine horse in the line-up.  

Epatante 

The 2020 winner was left chasing Honeysuckle’s shadow when attempting to defend her title and has a bit to prove now, having been no match for De Bromhead’s superstar mare when they also clashed at Punchestown.  

Nicky Henderson’s leading Champion Hurdle contender dead-heated with Not So Sleepy when reappearing at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth, but corrected the record in style when landing the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. 

That saw her Cheltenham odds shorten to 8/1 and she is Britain’s number one hope of a Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner.

Zanahiyr

Having headed into last year’s Triumph Hurdle as the one they all had to beat, the five-year-old was bitterly disappointing in the spring, failing to land a blow at both Cheltenham and Punchestown.

However, he has progressed nicely this season, winning at Down Royal on reappearance and finishing second to Sharjah at both Punchestown and Leopardstown.

He was denied by just a neck in the Matheson Hurdle recently and he could represent plenty of value in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle this spring at 14/1.

Zanahyir, Cheltenham Champion Hurdle

Abacadabras 

Far from the most straightforward of characters, Gordon Elliott’s 16/1 chance put it all together to claim the Aintree Hurdle in the spring.  

A faller at the third flight in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle in 2021, this quirky son of Davidoff has unfinished business at Prestbury Park but may have his attention diverted elsewhere if Elliott is to be believed.

Beaten out of sight when trying three miles over Christmas it appears a case of back to the drawing board and he may drop back to the minimum distance in the spring.

Teahupoo

Another of Elliott’s legion of talented jumpers to consider, the five-year-old made it two from two for the season when winning the Grade Two Limerick Hurdle over Christmas.

He looks to be improving with every run and could throw his hat in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle ring at 16/1.

Monmiral  

This unbeaten four-year-old looked like he was the real deal when sauntering to a comfortable Grade 1 victory in Aintree’s Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle in the spring. 

However, he struggled to make an impact on his first try in open company in the Fighting Fifth and there are plenty of questions to answer for Paul Nicholls’ promising youngster. 

He did have valid excuses that day but his future appears to lie over further than two miles, with fences also looking to be where he will be seen at his best. 

That being said, the Champion Hurdle often turns into a stamina test and it would be foolish to completely discount this strapping son of Saint Des Saints at 20/1. 

Adagio

Another four-year-old to consider, the David Pipe-trained gelding chased home Monmiral in second at Aintree in the spring and was also runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

He was beaten just under a length when second in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and clearly has a liking for Prestbury Park.

He shouldered a monster burden of 11st 12lb that day and produced the sort of performance that suggests a Champion Hurdle bid should be considered, for which he can be found at 20/1.

Adagio, Cheltenham Champion Hurdle

Tommy’s Oscar

An outsider for the big race in March, Tommy’s Oscar can’t stop winning and made it three in a row at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.

He has risen almost 20lb in the ratings since scoring at Haydock earlier this season and the star of Ann and Ian Hamilton’s small but select stable is well worth his place in Graded company.

He is 33/1 in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle betting and although unlikely, a victory for the son of Oscar would be one of the great feel-good stories that makes Cheltenham Festival history.

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All odds and market correct at date of publication

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