LAST year’s winner Buveur D’Air is the red-hot favourite for the 2018 Champion Hurdle. It comes after the entries were revealed for the race on March 13. There are just 23 horses entered for the Grade One championship contest, which is worth £450,000.
Buveur D’Air is already the odds-on favourite to retain his crown. He has done everything right so far this season with victories in the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdles, both Grade One races.
No horse has won back-to-back Champion Hurdles since Hardy Eustace completed the feat in 2005. But Buveur D’Air looks to have the qualities to do the business. His trainer Nicky Henderson has four other entries including last year’s runner-up My Tent Or Yours. The others are Call Me Lord, Charli Parcs and Verdana Blue, who are all big outsiders.
Willie Mullins, who has won the race four times since 2011, has entered six horses out of 11 Irish-trained entries. They are headed by 2015 winner Faugheen. But there is a question mark over the 10-year-old after his dismal flop at Leopardstown in late December.
Comedy Of Errors (1973 and 1975) and Hurricane Fly (2011 and 2013) are the only two horses to have regained the Champion Hurdle crown.
Mullins also has Melon, Wicklow Brave and Bapaume plus chasers Min and Yorkhill. The latter has a 100 per cent record in two outings at the Festival.
Ante-post punters should shop around
With Buveur D’Air such a short-priced favourite, and likely to get even shorter in the market, punters may have to think outside the box in their search for a winning angle. Some bookies may have a market without the favourite, which is always popular, and will give people added interest in the race.
It will also pay to shop around so make sure you check out the best Cheltenham 2018 betting offers when considering an ante-post punt on the Champion Hurdle. You can find best betting offers here like bet £10 and get £30 by Betfair, also £20 Matched deposit bonus by Coral. In addition, some of the leading bookmakers are going “non-runner no bet” for the Cheltenham Festival already, so make sure to take advantage of that as betting ante-post can have its pitfalls.
Another option might be to look for an each-way angle on the race. With Buveur D’Air almost certain to start odds-on, there will be some big prices among the opposition.
For example, Defi Du Seuil is currently around the 16/1 mark, which would be great each-way value if he can recapture his juvenile form. However, he has a lot to prove. Melon at around the 8/1 mark looks a decent price. He tanked along in the International Hurdle and just lacked a finishing kick but he could pick up the pieces if the favourite flops.
Arcenfete a dark horse
Gordon Elliott, who has never had a runner in the Champion Hurdle, has three entries. They are last year’s OLBG Mares’ Hurdle heroine Apple’s Jade and Campeador. Apple’s Jade looks likely to try to retain her Mares Hurdle crown.
Henry de Bromhead has two contenders in the unexposed French import Arcenfete and 2015 Fighting Fifth Hurdle victor Identity Thief, who has not raced since April, 2017.
Arcenfete, now owned by Gigginstown House Stud, has not raced since recording a comfortable victory on his Jumping debut in a four-year-old hurdle at Auteuil, France, in June, 2016.
Other entries include the popular 10-year-old The New One, who has run in this race for the last four years.