The highlight of day one of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle and this year’s contest is one of the most interesting races of the week as defending champion Buveur D’Air has a strong test against two very exciting mares.
Since making his debut over hurdles in November 2015, Buveur D’Air has won 12 of his 14 races, with seven Grade One contests going his way. Nicky Henderson’s runner made a fantastic start to his season back in December when he defended his crown in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. A defeat followed in the Christmas Hurdle as his stablemate Verdana Blue got the better of him, however, he got back on track last time out in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown.
The last horse to win three straight Champion Hurdles was Istabraq in 2000 and Buveur D’Air is a worthy 13/8 favourite to follow in his shoes. The eight-year-old is sure to be one of the leading Cheltenham tips from punters betting on the meeting this year and if he hadn’t suffered a defeat at Kempton earlier in the campaign, he would be odds-on for this race.
Laurina Set For Step Up From Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
Laurina was one of the easiest winners at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 when she landed the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle by 18 lengths. Willie Mullins’ exciting mare clearly has a huge future ahead of her and connections have rightly opted to take on the opposite sex here and take her chance in the premier hurdle race.
It is difficult to know exactly how good Laurina is until she takes on the likes of Buveur D’Air and other Grade One operators outside of her sex. This contest will tell us a lot about her future as she looks to replicate Annie Power who won this race for Mullins in 2016.
The six-year-old has had just the single appearance so far that season where she was only required to beat the one rival at Sandown in a Listed race. The Irish horse can be backed at 7/2 in the betting for the Champion Hurdle where if she is successful, she will establish herself as the leading hurdler in the sport.
Apple’s Jade Also Likely To Take Her Chance
Irish Champion Hurdle winner Apple’s Jade will also run in the Champion Hurdle this year rather than the Mares’ Hurdle according to her trainer Gordon Elliott. The versatile mare has had big race wins over 2m and 3m, however, after her latest success at Leopardstown, her connections feel as though she has a strong chance in the day one feature where she is now challenging Buveur D’Air for favouritism at 7/4 in the betting.
With two exciting mares both receiving a seven-pound weight advantage, Buveur D’Air is going to need to be at his best this year, however, he has proven his class so often before in these big races and he can add his name to the history books here and become one of the leading hurdlers to grace the sport.