Champion Hurdle Preview
BUVEUR D’AIR v APPLE’S JADE v LAURINA
With just two weeks to go before the first day of the Cheltenham Festival and the excitement is building in the JPW Racing Tipster and Tipster’s Empire headquarters.
Over the next two weeks, we will be previewing the four key championship races for each day. We will then preview the whole festival on the Sunday before the festival.
The Champion Hurdle looks a hot race on paper with Apple’s Jade, Buveur D’Air and Laurina.
It is the mares against the dual Champion Hurdle winner, and this could quite easily be the race of the festival.
Let’s look at the betting at the time of writing (26th February, Best Odds Available)
Buveur D’Air 2/1, Apple’s Jade 9/4, Laurina 7/2, Sharjah 10/1, Verdana Blue 14/1, Espoir D’Allen 16/1, Brain Power 16/1, Melon 20/1, Supersundae 20/1, Global Citizen 33/1
BUVEUR D’AIR has won the last two runnings of the Champion Hurdle and, for me, deserves to be the favourite. He was very impressive when winning the Champion Hurdle back in 2017, but you could argue that it was not the greatest renewal. He then won the race last year, but only beat Melon by a neck. Again, not the greatest renewal, and that horse has not fired all season, so you could argue the form is questionable. This season he was an impressive winner of his first start of the season in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, and was then surprisingly beaten for the first time since his novice days over Christmas, to Verdana Blue. It was easy work again on his final start, albeit a training exercise, but the 2nd Vision Des Flos has come out and won since, and he now goes to the festival looking for the treble in this race.
1. He has won the race twice so knows what it takes.
2. His jumping is fast and slick.
3. He has only been beaten once since he was a novice.
1. Holes in the form of his two wins of the Champion Hurdle. Did he beat anything?
2. His jumping can also be a negative, because it is so low and fast he could easily make a big mistake.
3. Has to give Apple’s Jade and Laurina 7lb in weight.
APPLE’S JADE has been breathtaking this season, with four wins from four starts. She has won all those races by a combined 73 lengths and looks to be getting better with age. It is hard to believe that she is only a seven-year-old. She has won ten Grade 1s ranging from 2m – 3m and is very versatile when it comes to the trip. She won the Mare’s Hurdle at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival but was disappointing in the same race last season, when reported to be in season. Her last run was in the Irish Champion Hurdle and she annihilated the field by 16 lengths or more. It was a breathtaking run as it was her first start over two miles since the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in 2016. Her 7lb mare’s allowance is a big advantage over BVD, but after her latest win immediately after the race, owner Michael O’Leary mentioned her jumping out to the right and Cheltenham being the ‘wrong way around’ (left handed). It was something I picked up on as he was basically revealing their worries. For me, it is also a concern that she has not run at two miles for over two years. I really rate APPLE’S JADE and she is better than ever, but at this stage, I am having doubts about a few things.
1. Looks better than ever this season.
2. Gets 7lb Mare’s Allowance.
3. Won ten Grade 1s against the best around.
1. Not the best form at course despite winning at 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
2. Two miles could be sharp against proper Champion Hurdle material.
3. Her jumping to the right and comments she is better right handed.
LAURINA is unbeaten in six starts when trained by Willie Mullins. She was a winner of last years Mare’s Novice Hurdle by a whopping 18 lengths. In her six wins, she has won by a combined 106 lengths and has never been off the bridle. She has literally done everything that has been asked of her, and could not have done it more impressively. She is still improving and could literally be anything. We just don’t know how good she is and I have heard talk about her being the best Willie Mullins has trained. We will learn everything about her at the Cheltenham Festival that’s for sure, as it takes no prisoners. Willie Mullins is a master with training mares. You have only got to mention the names Quevega and Annie Power to know that. Although we don’t know how good she could be, you could argue that she wants further than two miles given that her last three runs have been at 2m 4f. She is also not the quickest hurdler but when she won last week, she did get better as the pace increased. Her win last week was at Punchestown when beating Stormy Ireland by six lengths. She is sure to improve and will have to improve to win this. Exciting mare nevertheless, and I would not be at all surprised if she did win the Champion Hurdle.
1. Unbeaten in six starts for Willie Mullins.
2. Gets 7lb Mare’s Allowance.
3. Won at the Cheltenham Festival last season and still improving.
1. Will need a career best to win this.
2. Her jumping needs to be better.
3. May not be her ideal trip.
I am a realist, and in situations like this, I would rather play it safe than to guess how good a horse can be or that they are now the next coming. For that reason as things stand, I will be firmly in the BUVEUR D’AIR camp. I know that he loves it around Cheltenham; I know that he has won two Champion Hurdles; I know that he is a fast slick hurdler; I know he gets up the hill in a battle and more so in this very race; I know he has only been beaten once since his Novice days and I know his form at Cheltenham reads 311.
I could go on and on but BUVEUR D’AIR is the safest bet in this race and at best odds of 2/1 I really don’t think it is a bad bet in terms of value at all. He has won the race for the last two seasons and probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I am not sure any other horse, who has only lost once since his novice days, that is 13 runs and 12 wins may I add, and won two Champion Hurdles, would actually be 2/1 or would be much shorter. Some will argue he didn’t beat much in the last two renewals, and I agree with that, but if we go back to the 2017 Champion Hurdle he was very impressive. He wasn’t quite right last season but still managed to win which is a true testament to the quality of the horse. It was reported BVD was next to We Have A Dream who missed the Cheltenham Festival because of a serious illness, and he may have picked something up from that horse. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t BVD at his best. He is a proper Champion Hurdle horse who is probably the fastest horse over a hurdle that I have seen. He gets from A to B so quickly and does not spend any time in the air. He makes lengths at his hurdles which is a tool better than anything to have in your locker. When you weigh up all the good and bad for all three horses, BVD comes away at the top of the pile. As I have said it is all about playing safe at Cheltenham and using the knowledge you have witnessed, to determine where you go with your selections.
I am by no means writing off APPLE’S JADE or LAURINA, as both are serious horses. The main reason I am not with APPLE’S JADE is her form at Cheltenham and the fact her owner suggested the track does not suit her. Not everyone would pick up on that but my ears are always to the ground and I will not miss a thing. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.
LAURINA again cannot be written off as she could still have so much more improvement to come, but from what we have learned so far I could not back her at 7/2 over the 2/1 on BVD. If someone gives me 11/2 then that may change my mind.
Whatever happens, this looks the be the race of the week and I would not be surprised to see any of three win if I am being honest. It is going to be a special race and the excitement we have in store in two weeks is going to something else.
Come on the BUVEUR D’AIR.
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