With just weeks to go until the 2021 Cheltenham Festival gets underway, it’s the time of year when horse racing fans count down the days until the famous meeting begins. Of course, the absence of spectators this year will make for a strange atmosphere at Prestbury Park, but there are still a whole host of exciting races to look forward to, even if they won’t be accompanied by the famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’.
Not least of these is the Champion Hurdle, which stands as the feature race on day one of the Festival. Run over a distance of two miles and half a furlong, it’s not exactly a marathon, but nonetheless, the race has brought plenty of excitement and is a fitting curtain-raiser for the Festival’s four days.
This year, there are a few horses who are being tipped as major contenders in the Champion Hurdle odds. Let’s have a look at three horses that could land a memorable victory come March 16th.
The current favorite for the Champion Hurdle is Honeysuckle, and it’s no surprise given the mare’s form. Trained by Henry de Bromhead, Honeysuckle is yet to taste defeat in her jumps career thus far, and all her connections will be hoping that good form can continue when push comes to shove on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
It’s fair to say that the Champion Hurdle will be the toughest test Honeysuckle has faced, and we will learn a lot about the true talent of the unbeaten seven-year-old. Rachael Blackmore is set to be in the saddle for the race, and it’s clear that there is great chemistry between horse and rider. Can they handle the pressure?
Trained by Nicky Henderson, Epatante had been the favorite heading towards the Champion Hurdle, but the form of Honeysuckle has seen her edged out at the top of the betting market. Nonetheless, Epatante is still a major contender and having won the race last year, the mare knows what it takes to get the job done in the Cheltenham day one showpiece.
Winning any race at the Cheltenham Festival two years running is extremely difficult, but Henderson is something of a master when it comes to the Champion Hurdle, having landed more winners in the race than any other trainer. There’s no doubt that Henderson and his team have been putting in plenty of work to ensure that Epatante is ready to fight for first place once again.
Similarly priced to both Honeysuckle and Epatante, Goshen could well have a say in the Champion Hurdle on March 16th. The Gary Moore-trained five-year-old had endured a tough time of things since dramatically unseating his rider whilst 10 lengths clear in last year’s Triumph Hurdle, with three successive losses following that Cheltenham disappointment. However, a recent win in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton has set Goshen up perfectly for a crack at the Champion Hurdle, and Moore will be quietly confident that his horse can do damage.
It’s difficult to pick a winner out of the three main contenders. Honeysuckle’s undefeated record and seemingly limitless potential make it difficult to look beyond her. Epatante has the know-how, having won the race last year. And as for Goshen, how many times do we see the biggest names and hottest picks fall short, only for a slightly less fancied horse to steal the spotlight? It’s a near-impossible race to call, and it set to bring tremendous excitement on day one of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.