The Champion Hurdle will have a new winner in the 2020 season at Cheltenham Festival, with three outstanding charges aiming to etch their place in the history of the prestigious event. Buveur D’Air dominated the Champion Hurdle in 2017 and 2018, winning the crown with an air of dominance.
However, his reign came to an end at the hands of Espoir D’Allen last season and denying his attempt for a record three wins on the bounce. Gavin Cromwell’s charge became the darling of Cheltenham for the day after producing a brilliant run to upset the two-time defending champion. The bay gelding was on the rise before suffering a devastating towards the end of last term that resulted in him being put down.
Buveur D’Air was scheduled to return to run in the race once again, only to endure a foot problem of his own – which fortunately he was able to recover from, although he has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign. Therefore a new competitor will enter the winners’ circle in the Champion Hurdle. Here are three of the leading contenders for the crown.
Epatante is the next gem to emerge from the yard of Nicky Henderson, replacing Buveur D’Air as the favourite for the Champion Hurdle in the horse racing betting odds. She competed in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last season at Cheltenham, finishing down in ninth place. However, the bay mare has produced two excellent performances in the current campaign.
'There were a lot of horses with potential in the race and she's come out on top!'— ITV Racing (@itvracing) December 26, 2019
Barry Geraghty on Christmas Hurdle winner Epatante pic.twitter.com/L963zRZvF5
Epatante recorded a fine victory at Newbury in the Intermediate Hurdle, finishing six lengths ahead of her nearest rival French Crusader. The five-year-old followed up her display with a stronger outing against a talented field in the Christmas Hurdle to win the event, beating Fusil Raffles and Verdana Blue in the process. Epatante will be a real challenger at Cheltenham.
Henderson will have no shortage of talent in the event with Pentland Hills also in the running. Last season, he won the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival with a brilliant performance, finishing three lengths ahead of his nearest competitor Couer Sublime. The Irish thoroughbred ended the last campaign with another excellent outing to beat Fakir D’Oudairies in the Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.
Pentland Hills’ form this term has been underwhelming, placing in fifth at the International Hurdle on his return to Cheltenham in November. He endured a tense battle with Ballyandy in the Champion Hurdle Trial Hurdle at Haydock Park in January, only to lose out by a nose. He has not been at his best this term, but he remains a contender for the crown.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge has been a winning machine in Ireland, although she has been untested on English soil. The bay mare has won all seven of her races, including all three this term. The five-year-old was the leading contender for the Fairyhouse.ie Hurdle and won the event by a dominant margin of 11 lengths. De Bromhead’s charge was even better in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, defeating a talented field that featured Apple’s Jade and Penhill with relative ease.
Honeysuckle was not quite as convincing in her last outing in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. She won the event to continue her outstanding form, although she was tested by Darver Star down the stretch. Honeysuckle displayed her resilience to claim the crown, proving her credentials for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.