Category Archives: Champion Hurdle

Buveur D’Air – The Arguments Against

This year’s Champion Hurdle market has been dominated by quite some time by one horse – the reigning Champion Hurdler, Buveur D’Air. With Faugheen failing to show his brilliant best in his last two starts and last year’s juvenile form not working out as well as one might have hoped, Buveur D’Air (currently 4/7 at best) looks like festival banker material.

So, why would we take on the favourite?

The easiest argument that’s been floating around is that it’s hard to retain a Champion Hurdle – Hurricane Fly was well fancied to do so and failed. Really, I can’t take this argument because this year’s Champion Hurdle isn’t just a weak Champion Hurdle, it’s a weak grade 1. The argument that it’s difficult to retain a Champion Hurdle isn’t based on the fact that it’s a gruelling race that takes a lot out of the horse (as could be the case for a Grand National or an Albert Bartlett), but on the fact that the race is generally full of class, with one of last year’s novices coming to challenge or something else emerging. Looking at the list of 11 above, it’s hard to see where that major threat is.

The second argument is that the only defeat of his career since he switched from bumpers to hurdles came at Cheltenham, in the 2016 Supreme. However, that argument can’t really be entertained at all. He was beaten only by Altior and Min in the Supreme (who will be the top two in the market in the Champion Chase the day after this content and both of whom have subsequently proven their class – it was one of the best novice contests in recent memory). That was at the time a career-best performance, probably not bettered until he returned to Cheltenham last March to win this in a stunning fashion. There is no doubt about his ability in terms of the track.

My only real concern (and it is minor) is that Henderson has been quoted more than once as saying that he takes a bit of work. Speaking on February 20th about wishing to take BD for a racecourse gallop, he said: “Buveur D’Air takes an awful lot of work, but he did work this morning. He has not really had a race yet (this season) and he didn’t have a race at Sandown. I would like to work him before racing on Saturday just to get him revved up”. Essentially, the suggestion here is that the lack of competition thus far this season may be a bad thing when it comes to the day itself (this wasn’t enough of a concern for Henderson to take him to Leopardstown for a real race instead of Sandown, of course).

Again, this argument can be countered. Firstly, thinking back to last season, Buveur D’Air was gifted a similarly easy campaign, going off at SP’s of 10/11, 30/100 and 1/4 in his three starts that season. This certainly didn’t have any detrimental effect come the day of the Champion Hurdle. If this was of any concern, Henderson will do whatever he feels is necessary in a racecourse gallop to wind him up a bit more ahead of the day itself. For me, this isn’t anything to lose sleep over.

While his starts this season may not have taken too much effort to win, Buveur D’Air was impressive nonetheless. His hurdling is slick and efficient, and based on what we’ve seen so far he has improved significantly from last season in terms of his jumping. In short, should he run to form, it will take something outstanding to beat him.

The Triumph – A Champion Hurdle Trial?

It’s often noted that the previous season’s top juvenile hurdlers fail to make the transition into open company, despite having been hugely impressive in their juvenile year. This year, we’re faced with such a dilemma yet again – Defi Du Seuil looked like a wonderful horse and an exciting prospect last season, winning both the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Anniversary Hurdle at Aintree. However, this season he has failed to impress in either of his two starts, finishing 4th of 5 runners at Ascot and 7th of 8 at Leopardstown. Should we simply write off the previous season’s juveniles when considering a Champion Hurdle, or are they were keeping on side?

I’ve taken a look at all of the previous season’s Triumph Hurdle runners to run in the following season’s Champion Hurdle. Here is the list, along with a few conclusions:

2017 Champion Hurdle / 2016 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Footpad 3rd 14/1 4th
Sceau Royal 12th 25/1 6th

2016 Champion Hurdle / 2015 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Peace And Co 1st 16/1 PU
Top Notch 2nd 14/1 5th
Hargam 3rd 16/1 10th

2015 Champion Hurdle / 2014 Triumph

None

2014 Champion Hurdle / 2013 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Our Conor 1st 5/1 F

2013 Champion Hurdle / 2012 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Countrywide Flame 1st 16/1 3rd
Balder Succes F 100/1 UR

2012 Champion Hurdle / 2011 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Zarkandar 1st 9/1 5th
Brampour 9th 50/1 7th

2011 Champion Hurdle / 2010 Triumph

None

2010 Champion Hurdle / 2009 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Zaynar 1st 15/2 3rd
Starluck 4th 14/1 5th
Jumbo Rio 9th 50/1 8th

2009 Champion Hurdle / 2008 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Celestial Halo 1st 17/2 2nd
Won In The Dark 3rd 33/1 10th

2008 Champion Hurdle / 2007 Triumph

Horse Triumph Placing Champion Odds Champion Placing
Katchit 1st 10/1 1st
Punjabi 4th 25/1 3rd

Form of Triumph Winner

12353FP – 1 win and 3 places from 7 runners.

This actually looks better when you break it down:

  • 1st at 10/1
  • 2nd at 17/2
  • 3rd at 15/2
  • 5th at 9/1
  • 3rd at 16/1
  • Fell at 5/1
  • Pulled up at 16/1

If anything, the Triumph winners have performed fairly consistently in the Champion Hurdle – they generally haven’t managed to have quite enough to win the big race the following year, but have done a good job at making the frame at decent prices.

The previous year’s Triumph winners have taken up 6% of the total field in the last 10 years but have managed to make up 13% of the total places on offer. This record may be even better if Our Conor, the shortest-priced Triumph winner in a Champion Hurdle in the last 10 years, had not tragically taken a fatal fall in the early stages of the races, missing out on a chance to show his true talent.

While the record of 5yo’s in winning the Champion Hurdle is famously poor, this record excluding Triumph winners is simply dire. In the last 10 years, 5yo’s (excluding the previous year’s Triumph Hurdle winner) took up 18% of the field but only 7% of the total places, with 2 places filled.