Day One of the Cheltenham Festival features a Stan James Champion Hurdle robbed of a number of stars, including Faugheen and Annie Power who have won the last two runnings for Willie Mullins.
However, the race remains a fascinating event and Sam Turner (Robin Goodfellow) discusses the merits of the 12 contenders.
Annie Power (pictured) and Faugheen are not racing in the Stan James Champion Hurdle
BRAIN POWER – Has made giant strides in some warm handicap hurdles this season and deserves his opportunity. Yet to prove Cheltenham is his favoured track of choice but chance he hasn’t finished improving yet and drying ground will help.
BUVEUR D’AIR – Third in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle behind stablemate Altior and had a novice chasing campaign shelved after two small-field wins in preference for a tilt at this. Enjoyed routine warm-up at Sandown and clearly interesting given stable’s record in the race.
CH’TIBELLO – Likeable hurdler who has chased home Yanworth on his last two starts at Kempton and Wincanton. Would have claims of reaching the frame on his favoured good ground and chances his progression has not quite plateaued just yet.
Brain Power has made some giant strides in some warm handicap hurdles this season
CYRUS DARIUS – Left behind a modest comeback effort at Haydock with a decisive Kelso win last time, albeit aided when leading rival fell late on. Looked a serious hurdler prior to a spell on the sidelines, but a suspicion this level may be beyond him nowadays.
FOOTPAD – Tough and genuine outsider who successfully pot hunted in France last year but has twice come off worst in duels with Petite Mouchoir this campaign. Finished a good bit closer to that rival last time and could make the frame if ridden patiently.
MOON RACER – Talented, if fragile, novice who takes his chance at this level following a smart racecourse gallop. Has won on all three of his starts at Cheltenham and boasts plenty of ability and a turn of foot so tough to write off his chance.
Moon Racer (centre) has won all three of his starts at Cheltenham Festival
MY TENT OR YOURS – Runner-up to Annie Power 12 months ago on his favoured good ground and every chance events have conspired against him this term. Two defeats on deep ground can be forgiven and his Kempton run is excused given the tactics employed. A live outsider on a sound surface given he has been second on all four starts at the track.
PETIT MOUCHOIR – Closely matched with Buveur D’Air on their running at Aintree last year and has thrived this term in beating Nichols Canyon and Footpad at Leopardstown. Uncomplicated type who is versatile tactically and copes with most ground.
SCEAU ROYAL – Progressive hurdler who loves a sound surface and is a potent threat when encountering good ground. Two recent defeats can be attributed to testing conditions, although his latest 3rd to Yanworth at Wincanton was a fine effort and he could play a big role if rain stays away.
My Tent Or Yours was runner-up to Annie Power 12 months ago on his favoured good ground
THE NEW ONE – Admirable hurdler who boats an enviable record in races just below top class. Was a creditable 4th in this last year and has been well placed again to score twice this term, but balance of his career suggests he will narrowly fall short again.
WICKLOW BRAVE – Talented performer under both codes as he proved when winning Irish St Leger last summer. Bolted up in the County Hurdle two years ago so could prove a joker in the pack if he consents to jump off on terms which has been an issue in the past.
YANWORTH – Talented hurdler who has polarised opinion this term despite remaining unbeaten in three starts. Has required a strong pace for his stamina to kick in on his return to 2m and didn’t impress many last time at Wincanton. Remains capable of better though even if hurdling is far from foot-perfect.
Yanworth remains unbeaten in three starts despite polarising opinion this term