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Champion Hurdle Preview : Another Win for Honeysuckle?

Cheltenham Preview
Last Updated : 13th March, 2022 By Harvey T

It's finally here! The Cheltenham Festival begins on Tuesday March 15 and the first day sees the Champion Hurdle take place. The 3.30 race will see Honeysuckle bidding to win a second straight Champion Hurdle and make it 15 wins out of 15 over hurdles. Can anyone beat Honeysuckle?

Honeysuckle Out to Retain Title

Henry de Bromhead saddles Honeysuckle who will be ridden by Rachael Blackmore. The duo had great success last year and another Champion Hurdle looks well within their grasp. Honeysuckle has won at the last two Cheltenham festivals. 2020 saw a win in the Close Brothers Novices' Hurdle. Then last year, Honeysuckle won this race by six-and-a-half lengths from Sharjah.

The favourite has had two races this season and comfortably won them both. An eight-length win at Fairyhouse was followed by a six-and-a-half length victory over Zanahiyr in the Irish Champion Hurdle held at Leopardstown in February. Both wins were in Grade 1 races and Honeysuckle comes to Cheltenham having won all 14 of her races. With no worries over the ground or any fitness problems, everything points to Honeysuckle winning another Champion Hurdle.

Appreciate It Out to Cause an Upset

This Willie Mullins trained contender is the second favourite in the 2022 Champion Hurdle. Like the favourite, Appreciate It is yet to taste defeat in a hurdles race. Four races have been run and all of them have ended in victory. Appreciate It has run twice at the festival in the past. 2020 saw this runner come second in the Champion Bumper. Switched to hurdles, 2021 saw Appreciate It win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. It wasn't exactly a close race as Appreciate It won by 24 lengths.

The worry with this second favourite is that there hasn't been a run since that win at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. There had been plans to go chasing this season but a setback changed those plans and now the task is to dethrone Honeysuckle. Will a year off the track leave Appreciate It too rusty to come and win the Champion Hurdle? If Appreciate It can run well fresh (there's previously been a win after 256 days without a run), then a bold bid will be made to beat Honeysuckle.

 

Can Teahupoo Step up in Class?

The likely Irish dominance of this race continues with the Gordon Elliott trained Teahupoo. The five-year-old has six wins out of seven over hurdles. This is the first time that this contender has had a race at Cheltenham. There have been three runs this season for Teahupoo, all of them ending in a win. Two of them were in Grade 3 races, the other a Grade 2 event at Limerick at the end of December on heavy ground. 

Undoubtedly this is a progressive runner but five-year-olds don't have a great record in the Champion Hurdle with only two wins this century. At the current odds, this is a good each-way bet for this race.

 

Epatante Bids to Regain Crown

It was in 2020 that Epatante won the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival. Last year saw this Nicky Henderson trained runner come third behind Honeysuckle. Epatante was nine-and-a-half lengths adrift of the winner. Up against Honeysuckle again the following month, Epatante was even further behind at Punchestown. Why therefore should she be able to reverse that form this year?

Epatante has shown good form this season. November saw a dead heat with Not so Sleepy in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. Boxing Day was one to celebrate for Epatante with a win in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.  Epatante is good each-way shot shot here but it's hard to see her getting close to the favourite. However, Epatante could well run into a place.

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