Cheltenham Champion Hurdle: Honeysuckle still the one to beat
Contenders to win the 2022 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle
The four-day Cheltenham Betting Festival kicks off in style with the two-mile Champion Hurdle the feature contest on the opening day.
Irish-trained horses have walked away with the prize in six of the last 10 years, while a mare has won the last two renewals.
Honeysuckle claimed the top prize on Champions Day in 2021 and Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare will be looking to saunter to more success at Cheltenham 2022.
We have already assessed the Cheltenham Gold Cup hopefuls but now we take a look at the leading contenders for the 2022 Champion Hurdle.
Unbeaten in her racing career, Honeysuckle is looking for a third straight victory at the Cheltenham Festival and the defending champion heads the market at 8/11.
No one could lay a glove on the classy mare in 2021 as she drew further and further clear up the Cheltenham hill under big-race pilot Rachael Blackmore.
🍯Honeysuckle is back 🍯
The unbeaten mare picks up from where she left off last season, coasting clear in the Grade 1 https://t.co/PFQ0jhDODV Hatton's Grace Hurdle in the hands of @rachaelblackmor for @HenrydeBromhead at @Fairyhouse 🏆 pic.twitter.com/ybiWMXGavO
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) November 28, 2021
She landed a third Hatton’s Grace Hurdle when reappearing at Fairyhouse in November with her jumping looking much slicker at this stage of the season than in years gone by.
She possesses that unique blend of speed, guts and stamina that it takes to excel in the Champion Hurdle and it will take a special performance from one of her rivals to lower her colours this term.
Although still to be seen in 2021/22, the Champion Hurdle has been identified as the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle champion’s spring target.
He is one of the few Champion Hurdle candidates yet to square off against Honeysuckle and is a 6/1 shot to down the all-conquering mare.
Second in the Champion Hurdle the past two seasons, Willie Mullins’ game nine-year-old has proved to be top quality in both of his appearances this season.
He landed his second Morgiana Hurdle in November and scooped his fourth straight success in the Matheson Hurdle when scoring at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.
Annie Power and two-time winner Hurricane Fly are amongst Mullins’ past Champion Hurdle winners and the master of Closutton is the Cheltenham Festival’s leading trainer.
Sharjah is priced up at Champion Hurdle odds of 8/1 to go one better this time around and looks a must for the shortlist.
The Champion Hurdle winner in 2020, Nicky Henderson’s mare had no answer to Honeysuckle at both Prestbury Park and at Punchestown in 2021.
Available at 8/1 in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle betting, she dead-heated for first when defending her Fighting Fifth title at Newcastle recently and plundered more Grade One honours when a taking winner of Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day.
Sent off favourite for the Triumph Hurdle in March, the previously unbeaten five-year-old could only finish fourth as he struggled to lay a glove on his rivals up the Cheltenham hill.
He looks to have strengthened up over the summer and made amends for that Cheltenham Festival disappointment when scoring at Down Royal on reappearance in October.
He lost little in defeat when second in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown and got within a neck of Sharjah when a silver medallist at Leopardstown last time.
A 14/1 shot for Cheltenham Champion Hurdle glory, he looks set to be nicely brought to the boil by leading handler Gordon Elliott.
Elliott could also be represented by another graduate from the juvenile hurdle ranks, Teahupoo, who is two from two this season.
He has accounted for Triumph Hurdle winner Quilixios twice this term and is 16/1 following his most recent success in the Grade Two Limerick Hurdle.
The stand-out British juvenile of last season, this four-year-old accounted for some of the best youngsters around when taking two Grade One contests.
Trainer Paul Nicholls sees him as a Champion Hurdle horse, but he disappointed when well beaten in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.
Available at 20/1 it could be worth seeing what this talented gelding does next before he can be highlighted as a genuine Cheltenham Festival contender.
Twice beaten by Teahupoo this season, the Triumph Hurdle winner appears to be marking time before a switch to fences next season.
However, his all-conquering trainer will take comfort from the battle he showed in defeat at Limerick over Christmas considering the stable’s dim form of late.
He got better as the season went on last season and it wouldn’t take too much improvement for this 20/1 shot to develop into a fringe Cheltenham Champion Hurdle contender.
All odds and market correct at date of publication