Champion Hurdle 2017 Form and Betting Analysis.
A strong looking field for the 2017 renewal and with the weather looking likely to have a major say in the outcome as there is half an inch of rain forecast late on Monday into Tuesday, which if it materialises will almost certainly turn the going soft for the first days racing. This may throw a spanner into the works of a few of the fancied runners no more so than the hot favourite BINOCULAR who although he handled soft ground as a 3yo when trained in France by Elie Lellouche running second at Longchamp over 1 1/4m in a listed race on heavy, but soft testing ground up the Cheltenham hill is a different kettle of fish and this classy speedy and foot perfect hurdler may just be found wanting at the death, remember his only defeat over hurdles came at the festival last year in the Supreme Novices and he wouldn't be the first to succumb to the Cheltenham hill, and at skinny odds I feel he could be worth taking on. Of his rivals I like the look of CELESTIAL HALO who looks a tough as teak decent ex flat performer capable of grinding his opponents down as Paul Nichol's inmate showed at Sandown in his trial and when winning the triumph at last years meeting, but he may also prefer the going to be riding faster than soft. KATCHIT last years winner hasn't looked the same horse in his three starts this term and is going to have to improve a ton to get involved this time around, the Pipe stable is ignored at your peril and OSANA looks set to run a big race and his form reads well with his principle rivals and he was second in the race last year but this years renewal looks decidedly stronger and one feels he may not be good enough.Leading on to Emma Lavelle's CRACKAWAY JACK who like Osana has decent form and was the winner of the Fred Winter last year but once again I feel he will come up short against one or two of these and he too may prefer better ground. Last years third PUNJABI from the Binocular stable of Nicky Henderson is another with claims and his preparation hasn't gone to plan according to Nicky due to the recent poor weather and trial cancellations and he also on all known flat and jump form would be happier on genuine good ground. On to the Irish contingent, as ever they are sending a strong team over with a mixture of old favourites and new equines on the block and old heroes like Brave Inca, Harchibald and Hardy Eustace would send the Guiness tent occupants into raptures should one of that trio manage to win and there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house but realisticly even though BRAVE INCA won the Irish Champion at his favourite Leopardstown in January with a typical gritty performance surely his advancing years count against him, and one could see the lightly raced MUIRHEAD who finished second in that race and who was well backed and travelled strongly throughout only to be outbattled by the old warrior Brave Inca close home but one got the impression that there may be more to come from this horse who was strrongly fancied and started co-fav for last years supreme novices but he made a bad mistake at the first and was never travelling after and finished down the field ( Binocular 2nd in the race ) Noel Meade's charge won't mind the underfoot conditions and if he makes the improvement the trainer expects him to he could be a big priced fly in the Champion Hurdle ointment. Of the other Irish runners the 2007 winner SUBLIMITY should run a good race but will find this field classier than the field he beat two years ago, and it may be the horse he beat into second at leopardstown in December WON IN THE DARK could run a big race but the softening ground will not be in his favour and in all honesty Aintree or Punchestown ( where he was a 10l winner last spring ) on more likely faster ground would be a more likely opportunity for him to get his head in front. SIZING EUROPE is a horse who has been talked up a lot over the last couple of years but has not fulfilled the large expectations of him but on some of his form it would put him bang in the picture. With respect to the remainder of the twenty four declared runners they either don't look quite good enough or they would prefer faster ground. To conclude and advise where the housekeeping and holiday savings should be invested, I feel if Binocular handles the conditions and stays up the hill then he wins but my selection each way has to be MUIRHEAD at around 40/1 could spring a surprise with the likely soft ground being not in the favour of a few of these runners.
Forecast 123 : 1/ MUIRHEAD
2/ CELESTIAL HALO