Buveur D’Air bids to become the sixth horse in history to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on three occasions. Trainer Nicky Henderson completed a hat-trick of victories with See You Then (1985-87) and stands on the brink of repeating the feat with his French-bred gelding. He would join Hatton’s Grace (1949-51), Sir Ken (1952-54), Persian War (1968-70) and Istabraq (1998-2000) as well as his illustrious former stable star.
Buveur D’Air suffered a rare defeat, only his second over hurdles, when edged out by stable companion Verdana Blue at Kempton on Boxing Day. His defeat was largely due to some erratic hurdling, something he had also been guilty of when winning at Newcastle on his seasonal reappearance. He jumped better last time in a virtual exercise gallop when beating four moderate opponents at Sandown in soft ground.
Apple’s Jade has displaced Buveur D’Air as favourite with some bookmakers after landing her fourth successive victory at Leopardstown last month. Gordon Elliott’s mare was expected to be aimed at the staying races but has proved equally effective over any distance between two and three miles. She has routed the opposition by an aggregate of 73 lengths in her four races this season, making the running on three occasions.
There is also plenty of confidence behind Laurina, a six-year-old mare trained by Willie Mullins. She oozed class when winning the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the corresponding meeting by 18 lengths. The daughter of Spanish Moon has barely been out of a canter to win her three subsequent races but is yet to tackle rivals of this quality.
Mullins could also run last year’s runner-up Melon and the much-improved Sharjah. Melon ran the race of his life 12 months’ ago when beaten only a neck by Buveur D’Air. He has not managed to repeat that performance and was left trailing in the wake of Apple’s Jade at Leopardstown. Sharjah also holds Melon on his victory in the Ryanair Hurdle where he beat Supasundae by three and three-quarter lengths.
Verdana Blue would prefer faster ground while the highly-regarded Espoir D’Allen is the dark horse of the race. The five-year-old beat Wicklow Brave at Naas in January to earn his place in the line-up.
Champion Hurdle Betting Tips
APPLE’S JADE has been phenomenal this season and is likely to make an early bid for glory. BUVEUR D’AIR cannot afford mistakes if he is to complete the hat-trick while LAURINA comes here with a lofty home reputation. It promises to be a thrilling contest with Apple’s Jade just given the vote.