Champion Hurdle 2016 Tips

Hargam (ew)World Hurdle 201625/1Bet365
Camping Ground (ew)World Hurdle 201625/1Paddy Power

The absences of Artic Fire and, in particular, Faugheen from this season’s Champion Hurdle have robbed the race, and the Festival, of two of its top performers. Their injuries are also a major blow to Willie Mullins and his chances of landing a first British trainers’ title, but the strength in depth of his yard is perfectly illustrated by the fact that, despite the injuries to last year’s winner and runner up, he still has the first two in the betting for the feature race on day one of Cheltenham’s stellar meeting.

New favourite is his super mare, Annie Power, who will have to be supplemented for the contest. She returned from a lengthy layoff to win in facile fashion at Punchestown recently at long odds on and she probably deserves to be favourite, but she has never competed at the top level over two miles and it is hard to remember a horse coming second in a World Hurdle and then dropping back in trip to contest a Champion Hurdle. Soft ground would certainly aid her chances, but overall she doesn’t appeal as a bet at this stage and she looks worth taking on at the prices.

Nichols Canyon is the other Mullins runner near the head of the market and he looked a real contender for this race when inflicting Faugheen’s only defeat to date when the two clashed at Punchestown earlier in the season. However, the placings were emphatically reversed in the rematch in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, where Nichols Canyon was miles behind both Faugheen and Artic Fire. That was a hugely disappointing effort and it is hard to recommend a horse coming into such a big race on the back of that sort of performance.

Prior to that run, Nichols Canyon had just scrambled home in front of Identity Thief in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. That was another decent effort from the runner up who has emerged as one of the rising stars of the hurdling rankings.

Prior to his Leopardstown effort, Identiy Thief just got the better of Top Notch in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and there is every chance there is more to come from Henry de Bromhead’s lightly raced 6 year old, who may improve again for some better ground. He appeals most of those at the head of the market.

There are a host of five year olds left amongst the entries, three of them trained by Nicky Henderson, and that trio were the first three home in last season’s Triumph Hurdle.

Peace And Co came out top that day, but he has really struggled this campaign and Henderson is hoping that a recent wind operation might have got his career back on track.

Top Notch, runner up in the Triumph, has had the best season of the three so far. He is tough and consistent, but may just lack the class for this and it is hard to see him overturning Newcastle form with Identity Thief.

More interesting is HARGAM, even though he arguably has the most to find on the book.

Decent ground is key to this horse, but he travels through his races like a classy animal and this sort of contest is likely to be run to suit him. He is reported to be hard to get fit, but thriving at home now, so his best could be yet to come and he has decent form with plenty of these including The New One who he was just behind at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle.

Henderson is a master when it comes to training top class hurdlers and with his yard coming into form at exactly the right time, 25/1 (NRNB) about Hargem looks tempting each way value.

Henderson also has My Tent Or Yours in the race and this horse (runner up in 2014) would surely be favourite were it not for his long absence from the track.

This won’t be a vintage Champion Hurdle by any means and if My Tent Or Yours could re-capture anything like his best he would be the one to beat. However, trying to a win a race like this off of an absence of nearly two years is almost unprecedented and there is little value left in his current price.

A potential dark horse in the race is a favourite of ours, CAMPING GROUND.

We have been following him ever since his pillar to post win in a chase at Warwick on his first start in this country and he has been successfully mixing hurdling and chasing ever since. He has huge natural ability and a real engine on him, although a championship race over the minimum trip will be new territory.

He thrashed a good field in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day to show he acts on the course and then pulled too hard on very soft ground in the Cleeve Hurdle on his last start. That effort suggested a drop back in trip might suit and so he could be re-routed here from the World Hurdle.

He loves soft ground and if he gets his conditions he could cause a major upset and so is worth an interest at potentially rewarding odds of 25/1 (NRNB).

Hargam (ew)World Hurdle 201625/1Bet365
Camping Ground (ew)World Hurdle 201625/1Paddy Power