There has been a long history of multiple winners in this race and most recently Hurricane Power became a dual winner in 2013, when wrestling back his crown from 2011. However, you have to go back to Hardy Eustace for the last back-to-back winner (2004-05), although Buveur D’Air will be the first in three years to attempt that feat.
Given that Nicky Henderson’s stable star has gone unbeaten since capturing the hurdling blue riband in such brilliant fashion, barely breaking sweat in three victories this season, it’s no surprise to see him trading at odds-on – Unibet going a top price of 8/15 at the time of writing. That’s also something to do with the opposition, which doesn’t look much different this time around, other than an ageing Faugheen.
The latter was a seven-year-old when winning the 2015 renewal and would be a huge danger if recapturing that sort of form. However, he was inexplicably pulled up when long odds-on at Leooardstown over Christmas and while he redeemed himself somewhat when second in the Irish Champion Hurdle last month, it was still disappointing that he was no match for Supasundae, who was only having a prep for the Stayers’.
He’s entitled to take his chance again and that he is unbeaten in two previous runs at the Festival offers encouragement, although I can’t see it somehow. Indeed, his stablemate Wicklow Brave might be more of a threat to the favourite, providing he jumps off on level terms. A slow start 12 months ago cost him any chance he had (he was promoted from eighth to seventh) and his Flat form over last summer suggests he still retains plenty of ability at the age of nine.
However, an even better each-way bet in my mind is Alan King’s ELGIN, who is coming off a career-best victory in the Kingwell Hurdle, a race won in 2008 by the same stable’s Katchit before following up in the Champion Hurdle. The six-year-old, who had been working well beforehand, would have won by further had he kept a straight course under pressure, having been in front plenty soon enough. While more is needed here, he’s been put up to a mark of 161 and that’s higher than the horses who finished second, fourth and sixth in last year’s Champion Hurdle. He was supplemented for the race on Wednesday and connections must be hopeful of getting their money back with some place money at the least.
At 20/1 with Hills, he’s double the price of My Tent Or Yours and while that horse is hugely respected having finished runner-up three times previously and looked as good as ever when winning the International Hurdle here in December, the value lies with the King runner. The one caveat being he wouldn’t want the ground to be too testing and that’s in the lap of the weather gods.
Elgin each-way at 20/1 with William Hill