Charlie's Cheltenham Countdown: Hurdlers to Note - January 4, 2022

A wonderful Festive period of jumps racing to reflect on at and much to ponder with the spring festivals in mind. We begin our two-part review of the Christmas racing looking at the hurdles action.

Our sole antepost recommendation to date is Champ at 5/1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle and I was not as impressed as others were with the success of Klassical Dream in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. 

The former Supreme Novice Hurdle winner stole at least five lengths at the start, and one could argue that the 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter – beaten just two lengths – enhanced his reputation as much as the Willie Mullins’ trained winner. Gavin Cromwell’s stable star likes to lead but was always playing catch up after the start which on another day would have led to a false start.

Klassical Dream is a best price of 11/4 with William Hill for the Stayers’ Hurdle in March with Flooring Porter 6s with 888sport.

Champ Still Fancied in Stayers Hurdle

Champ remains 9/2 with William Hill for the Stayers’ Hurdle but as short as 10/3 with Betfred. I believe the latter is the correct price although I appreciate the poor showing of Chantry House muddies the waters with owner JP McManus entering both at the latest forfeit stage on Tuesday for the Gold Cup. 

With that in mind do note Bet365 are now betting Non Runner No Bet (NRNB) on the five championship races at the Festival – so if you want the insurance of money back if Champ fails to make the line up in the Stayers’ Hurdle, then the 7/2 looks fair with Best Odds Guaranteed.    

Previously recommended: Champ 1pt win at 5/1 now 9/2 with William Hill or 7/2 NRNB at Bet365

Sir Gerhard Impresses on Hurdling Debut

I backed My Mate Mozzie at 33/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after his debut hurdle success back in the autumn but am worried that he will be better on a right-handed track given he jumped right – markedly on occasions – when landing a Grade 3 at Navan on his penultimate start.

He is a slick jumper of hurdles, but ironically fluffed the last when caught close home in the Royal Bond last time. He will always need good ground to be seen at his most effective. 

At this stage I feel the Supreme is a two-horse race between Constitution Hill – who will be out at Sandown in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown at the weekend weather permitting – and Sir Gerhard with preference for last year’s Champion Bumper winner who was a stunning winner of a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown last week.

Very good. Sir Gerhard hurdling debut ?

He definitely has enough gears to stick at 2m!

— Joshua Stacey?? (@TheRacingJosh) December 26, 2021

I appreciate the selection does have the option of the Ballymore over an additional half-mile at the Festival, but he is not devoid of pace and his acceleration between two out and the last on Boxing Day looked out of the very top drawer. 

He made all in the Festival Bumper last March, but I don’t think he has to lead. Douvan’s brother Jonbon heads the market for Nicky Henderson but of the two Lambourn trained horses I favour stablemate Constitution Hill, but they may be both playing for silver and bronze come March.

In an ideal world we could wait for Non Runner No Bet given the Ballymore scenario, but I think he will take in the two-mile option. 

Recommendation: Sir Gerhard to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 9/2 with Bet365

Can Britain Win the Mares’ Hurdle?

The Irish have won all six renewals of the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle with Henry De Bromhead breaking the previous monopoly of Willie Mullins when Telmesomethinggirl led home a 1-2 for the yard in the 2021 renewal. 

Mullins has the market leader courtesy of Brandy Love, and she made a terrific debut over timber at Naas last month although she finished behind stablemate Grangee in a Bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival on her previous start back in February. 

Sir Gerhard had Elle Est Belle 7L back in third in the Champion Bumper back in March and that is top-class form. Things have not gone her way in two of her three starts over hurdles so far this term, but the one race that was run at a true gallop saw her run out a facile winner at Newbury and she could be overpriced to give Britain a first win in the race.

Dan Skelton’s mare carried a 5lbs penalty when beaten 5L behind Supreme favourite Jonbon last time in a farce of a race when they barely came out of a trot for the first half-mile. She was doing all her best work at the finish at Ascot, and it would be a surprise if the Cheltenham race was not run at a good clip. The 10s available looks a shade overpriced. 

Recommendation: Elle Est Belle 1 point each way at 10/1 with Bet365 for the Mares’ Novices Hurdle 

Craig Jones

Craig Jones

US Sports lover and watcher of the EFL, Craig will guide you through the NFL, NHL and English football