The latest round of absentees and Cheltenham Entries have been revealed for the big races at the Cheltenham Festival, and the big guns for each race have stood their ground. The biggest two absentees are Sharjah from the Champion Hurdle, a horse that has finished second in the race for the past two seasons, and Champ from the Gold Cup, but all that does is cement his place in the Stayers Hurdle.
With the absence of Sharjah, we have seen a change to the latest Cheltenham odds for the Champion Hurdle, with Honeysuckle strengthening at the top of the market as the 4/9 favourite for the race. With Champ confirming for the Stayers Hurdle, he’s now priced up at 9/2 to win that, making him the second favourite.
As we get closer to Cheltenham Festival, whether it is due to absentees, injuries, withdrawals for other reasons or something else, the betting markets are sure to be lively.
Honeysuckle Looks Strong in Champion Hurdle
Honeysuckle routed the field to win the 2021 Champion Hurdle, and since then she has perhaps shown even more, winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in great style at the Dublin Racing Festival.
🍯 Honeysuckle – Superstar ⭐— Leopardstown RC (@LeopardstownRC) February 6, 2022
A third consecutive Grade 1 @Chanelle_Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle for the wonder mare as she breezes clear for a facile victory in the hands of @rachaelblackmor for trainer @HenrydeBromhead 🏆#DublinRacingFestival pic.twitter.com/ryb44depMI
Sharjah pulling out of the race does take away one of her main challengers, so it is easy to see why bookmakers have shortened her odds even further. Appreciate It, who won the Supreme last year as a novice, is the main danger for Honeysuckle now if he can step up and deliver in open company on the big stage.
Can Champ Prove Hurdles Switch Was Right Call?
There was a lot of talk about Champ when he was sent over hurdles, and originally this was only supposed to be a short-term move to get a run into him. However, a great win at Ascot in the Long Walk hurdle got trainer Nicky Henderson thinking.
Given his poor jumping in the Gold Cup last season, Henderson has decided to keep Champ over hurdles and confirmed that plan by leaving him in the race and taking him out of the Gold Cup. The Stayers Hurdle looks wide open, and Champ can certainly play his part in the race.
Irish Fancied to Take Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup has been going to Ireland for the past few seasons, and it looks as though it will go there again. Irish runners lead the market, with the first and second from last season, Minella Indo and A Plus Tard, the favourites to get involved again alongside Galvin.
Al Boum Photo and Allaho are lively outsiders and also trained in Ireland, and anything other than them taking home the biggest prize of the week would be a real surprise. In terms of picking a winner, that is not easy, but the winning country looks far more straightforward, and that is set to be Ireland, who could well have another very strong Cheltenham Festival in 2022.