However, events of the last few months have transpired to create an intriguing contest.
Epatante began her campaign with an emphatic win in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle but was then well short of her best when surprisingly beaten by Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old will have to put that disappointment behind her, having not been seen on a racecourse since.
In the meantime, another star mare has catapulted herself into the picture in the shape of the Henry De Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle. The unbeaten seven-year-old defended her Irish Champion Hurdle crown at Leopardstown in February, winning the race in far more emphatic fashion than 12 months previously, and that display was enough to convince connections to go for the big one, rather than another Mares’ Hurdle, at Cheltenham.
Back in the UK, Goshen – who unseated in freakish fashion when en route to what would have been a runaway win in the Triumph Hurdle last season – has endured a rollercoaster campaign. Gary Moore’s five-year-old was disappointing in two flat outings in the autumn and then bombed out on his hurdles return at Cheltenham in December, finishing last of ten. However, after two months off the track he bounced back with a 22-length demolition job in the Kingwell Hurdle just four weeks before the Festival.
Last year’s second, Sharjah, added another Grade 1 to his collection at Leopardstown at Christmas and though he was below-par in the Irish equivalent, a similar disappointment last season did not stop him running a huge race come March.
Among last year’s novices, Abacadabras looked the leading Champion Hurdle hope but has not quite delivered on his potential despite landing a Grade 1, while Aspire Tower, a juvenile last season, looks much-improved and has been freshened up since finishing second to Sharjah at Christmas.
When is the Champion Hurdle?
The Champion Hurdle will be run at 3:05pm on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the first day of this year’s Festival.
(Odds provided by Betfair and are subject to change)
- Honeysuckle 13/8
- Epatante 7/2
- Goshen 5/1
- Abacadabras 8/1
- Sharjah 8/1
- Silver Streak 18/1
- Aspire Tower 20/1
- James Du Berlais 33/1
- Saldier 50/1
- Not So Sleepy 80/1
How to watch the Champion Hurdle
TV channel: The Champion Hurdle will be shown live on ITV1 and Racing TV.
Live stream: TV licence payers can stream the race for free via the ITV Hub website and app. Subscribers can also stream the action via the Racing TV website.