15:05 - Champion Hurdle
After watching her demolish her rivals in last years' renewal, I was adamant that Epatante would be line up here as clear favourite in attempt to defend her crown, however after a shock loss at odds of 1/5 in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton In December when last seen, and subsequent reports she has been suffering from a minor back issue, she arrives here on the back of a longer than ideal absence having to prove herself all over again.
The above point has been exacerbated by the emergence of Honeysuckle as a true Champion Hurdle contender, having retained the Irish Champion Hurdle with a breathtaking display and thus keeping her perfect career record intact. The Henry De Bromhead trained seven-year-old beat rival Abacadabras by ten lengths, with Sharjah a further nine lengths behind in third, and in doing so proved once and for all that she has the speed to excel over a two mile trip. It is true that the race was run to suit but she seemed to breeze through the whole race in such an effortless fashion and her jumping was impeccable. A reproduction of that effort would undoubtedly make her the one to beat, although if Epatante arrives here back to her best then this race could see an almighty battle up the Prestbury Park hill!
It was great to see Goshen finally get back to winning ways at Wincanton last month but that was the first time he has really shown what he is capable of since that unfortunate incident in last seasons' Triumph Hurdle and for me the price looks plenty short enough given his overall exploits this season and the fact that there have only been two five-year-old Cham[ion Hurdle winners from over one hundred runners in the last thirty-four years. On top of this, he has to give the afore-mentioned two 7lbs and as such I think that at best he is looking at picking up minor honours.
written by Dean Kilbryde