PART 1 – Champion Hurdle 2018 & Champion Chase 2018
The dust hadn’t even settled on the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and bookmakers had issued markets for the four championship races at the 2018 meeting. One of the intriguing aspects of championship races is speculating on how the form will pan out in subsequent races. Horses who have festival winning form often deliver again at the jumps meeting that matters most. Here are some observations and pointers for next year’s first two feature contests of the festival.
Champion Hurdle 2018
Buveur D’air did what was necessary to win the race this year but on ratings the horse was not an exceptional winner of the Champion Hurdle. The novice races could produce some contenders for the next renewal one of which is Melon who finished second in the Supreme on the first day of the meeting. The race was just the horse’s second start over hurdles and there should be improvement to come. The winner, Labiak, has more experience and is battle hardened so Melon ran a great race.
Fayonagh is a more speculative call and has not yet jumped a hurdle in public. However, the horse produced an extraordinary effort in the bumper having lost about 10 lengths at the start of the race. Fayonagh is a mare of the highest class and although there are plenty of options in the novice division connections could make a brave call and go straight for the Champion Hurdle. The mares’ division looks strong and Fayonagh would get a seven pound mares’ allowance in the senior race which makes that a tempting option.
Champion Chase 2018
Altior did not win this year’s race like a long odds-on shot. Charbel appeared to be going as well as the winner when falling two out. Falls are usually caused by tiredness but in this case Charbel cleared the fence and it was more like a stumble than a fall. The 2018 Champion Chase is being billed as a showdown between Altior and Douvan but Charbel should not be dismissed and could have improved before the race. If the two superstars take each other on Charbel could benefit when both tire.
Top Notch ran a great race in defeat behind the high class Yorkhill in the JLT Chase. Top Notch won the Triumph Hurdle over two miles so the minimum distance in the Champion Chase should not be a problem. A mistake two out gave Top Notch too much to do but wasn’t beaten far by Yorkhill. That horse is being mooted as a potential Gold Cup winner which brings Top Notch into the mix for the Champion Chase if connections take that route.
I’ll be back on Sunday to look at the Stayer’ Hurdle and the Gold Cup.