by FABIO SMITH Excitement is gathering and punters are revelling in what is set to be as big an event as ever. The first day of the Cheltenham Festival is on Tuesday March 14 and kick-starts four days of world-class horse racing. The main event on day one is the Stan James Champion Hurdle, a Grade One race with eight jumps over two miles and half a furlong. The race takes place on the Old Course at Cheltenham and is open to horses over four years old.
This prestigious event is a must for any punter and this year’s race is wide open. The event starts at 15:30pm GMT, and will be aired on ITV.
The 2016 Champion Hurdle was won by Annie Power and Irish jockey Ruby Walsh, riding for Willie Mullins. The trainer also won the race with Faugheen in 2015 and Hurricane Fly in both the 2013 and 2011 races. This year Annie Power will miss the race due to injury and the quality on show may be lower this year.
Champion Hurdle Tips
According to BetStars, the ante-post market leaders are currently Buveur D’air at 3/1 and Yorkhill at 4/1. Following closely behind are Petit Mouchoir and Yanworth, both at 9/2. Of course, odds are set to change in run up to the race, but for now these four look like the main contenders. Out of the four, I quite like the look of Yanworth. This is Alan King’s entry, a horse that has never been beaten over two miles. He is quite the runner, with plenty of stamina and speed to handle the furious pace and to stay on up the hill when others may fall behind.
Yanworth has won both of his starts this year and is a firm favourite in my eyes; a horse with an outstanding record. With 9/2 odds you get a slightly better payout for your money, should he prove worthy on the day. Yanworth suffered a minor setback recently and was ruled out of the Sandown trial but is pencilled in for the Kingwell Hurdle this weekend.
Brain Power also looks a serious contender. But if you are looking for an outside bet, I would recommend taking a look at The New One. Running at 14/1 ante-post, I really don’t think he is a bad choice. He won in deep ground at Haydock in January and has a great track record. This horse is always in it for the battle and could be worth a bet.