Irish Champion Hurdle Guide 2021

Leopardstown - February 06 2021
Leopardstown 15:15
6
Rachael Blackmore

Honeysuckle

J:
 
Rachael Blackmore
T:
 
Henry De Bromhead
Age: 7
Weight: 11-5
OR: 159
Days: 69

Honeysuckle has a been a star for the yard over the last two years and on all four of her starts last term had been pretty much faultless by winning twice at Fairyhouse including in the Grade One Hatton's Grace Hurdle, she then narrowly stayed on to take the Irish Champion Hurdle before landing her first Cheltenham festival winner when seeing off Benie Des Dieux in the Mares Hurdle.

Overall the Kenneth Alexander-owned six-year-old has claimed 10 wins in a row, if including her point to point race aswell and this season she has picked up from where she left off.

She headed to Fairyhouse on her seasonal debut in defence of her Hatton's Grace title and in gritty and determined fashion she managed to hold on close to the line.

Her rider Rachael Blackmore believes she has been working well at home and will have improved for her first run, with her run in this event deciding what race she heads to at the Cheltenham festival, but she will not go down without a fight looking to land back to back renewals.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
30/04/21PUN16Y11-71
16/03/21CHL16.5Sft11-31
06/02/21LEO16Sft/Hy11-51
29/11/20FAI20Sft11-51
10/03/20CHL20Sft11-51
Leopardstown - February 06 2021
Leopardstown 15:15
5
Mr P W Mullins

Sharjah

J:
 
Mr P W Mullins
T:
 
W P Mullins
Age: 8
Weight: 11-12
OR: 164
Days: 39

Sharjah is the best chance for the Willie Mullins string according to the market and off the back of his seasonal return has as big a chance of anyone.

In his career he has landed four black type victories all coming in Ireland at Leopardstown over course and distance taking the Morgiana, and Matheson hurdle three years in a row, which has to be respected.

Although running poorly in this event last year, he came on massively for the race to finish second in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival behind Epatante.

Having had two poor runs on the flat, he made his seasonal return in the Grade One Matheson Hurdle last time out and jumped beautifully to power home in the final stages and take the race for a third year in a row.

He has to improve the least of the runners to go on and win the race and if doing so cements himself as the leading Irish challenger for the Champion Hurdle in March.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
30/04/21PUN16Y12-02
16/03/21CHL16.5Sft11-102
06/02/21LEO16Sft/Hy11-123
29/12/20LEO16Sft11-121
27/07/20GAL17Sft11-100
Leopardstown - February 06 2021
Leopardstown 15:15
3
Mark Walsh

Saint Roi

J:
 
Mark Walsh
T:
 
W P Mullins
Age: 6
Weight: 11-12
OR: 157
Days: 39

This five year old for JP McManus signed off last season with two smart wins which saw him seeking a hat-trick on his seasonal return at Tipperary in September.

Having won at Tramore in a maiden hurdle he headed to Cheltenham for the Grade Three County Hurdle and was a superb winner under a great ride from Barry Geraghty.

This season Willie Mullins looks to be targeting him at the Champion Hurdle and in preparation he stepped him up into Grade Three company last time out.

Mullins believes this gelding is a Grade One winner in the making, but on his two showings to date will need to find more in this event on Saturday.

In November on his second start of the term he was a neck second to Abacadabras in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle and then last time out again stepped up for another Grade One in the Matheson Hurdle was outclassed into fourth.

He needs big improvement to go close in this event.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
06/02/21LEO16Sft/Hy11-124
29/12/20LEO16Sft11-124
15/11/20PUN16Hy11-122
04/10/20TIP16Gd11-21
13/03/20CHL17Sft10-131
Leopardstown - February 06 2021
Leopardstown 15:15
1
Jack Kennedy

Abacadabras

J:
 
Jack Kennedy
T:
 
Gordon Elliott
Age: 7
Weight: 11-12
OR: 158
Days: 39

Abacadabras for Gordon Elliott started his life over hurdles last season in great style showing clear pace in the final stages of his races.

Having landed a decent contest at Gowran on his seasonal debut last term, he then went on to take a Grade Three at Navan showing clear progression.

Although finishing second on his next start it saw him give his best performance to date when a narrow second to the superstar Envoi Allen in a Grade One at Fairyhouse.

He then headed to the Dublin Racing Festival and he landed his first Grade One of his career in the future Champions Novice Hurdle.

It was all systems go for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival and he finished a narrow second to the smart Shishkin in a photo-finish, which looks incredible form.

Staying over hurdles this term he made his debut in the Grade Two WKD Hurdle at Down Royal and although only finishing second behind Aspire Tower, the run would have done him good.

It did just that as it saw him get off the mark for the season in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, seeing off some of these rivals in this event.

However, last time out he gave a much lesser run in the Grade One Matheson Hurdle, when falling out the back of the TV to finish a weak fifth.

That run will put some punters off backing him and he has to go and prove he is good enough at this level once more.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
30/04/21PUN16Y12-04
08/04/21AIN20GS11-71
16/03/21CHL16.5Sft11-10F
06/02/21LEO16Sft/Hy11-122
29/12/20LEO16Sft11-125
Leopardstown - February 06 2021
Leopardstown 15:15
4
Paul Townend

Saldier

J:
 
Paul Townend
T:
 
W P Mullins
Age: 7
Weight: 11-12
OR: 159
Days: 39

Saldier for Willie Mullins is the outsider in the market of his three runners in the event, but we believe he looks to be the most progressive in field and will certainly come on for his seasonal debut

Somewhat of a forgotten horse for the yard he stole the show in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at a nice price in 2019, with the gelding having his first run in that race for over a year having been off the track with injury.

The Rich Ricci owned hurdler breezed to the front before the last hurdle and ran out a game winner of the event that day, beating some of these rivals in the race.

He was off the track again after that superb performance with another injury problem, but made his return at Christmas in the Matheson Hurdle over course and distance.

The gelding travelled lovely throughout, but when it came to push the button did not have much left in the tank and that can be put down to it being his first run for some time and needing to gain his fitness.

Saldier is a highly intelligent horse, that if not for his injury problems and fragile state, could have gone on to win more races throughout his career, and we believe his seasonal debut run will have put him spot on for this event.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
29/07/21GAL16Gd11-101
15/06/21ASC14GF9-95
06/06/21LIS13Gd/Y10-91
29/04/21PUN24Y11-128
16/03/21CHL16.5Sft11-107
Leopardstown - February 06 2021
Leopardstown 15:15
2
B J Cooper

Petit Mouchoir

J:
 
B J Cooper
T:
 
Gordon Elliott
Age: 10
Weight: 11-12
OR: 157
Days: 39

The final runner is the veteran nine year old who had a new lease of life last season, placing in some superb races, including in this event

He raced four times last term, being poor on his seasonal return at Tipperary but since then had figures of 223 in Grade Ones in Ireland.

He finished second to Saldier at Punchestown in the Morgiana Hurdle seeing off Sharjah and Klassical Dream, Sharjah then reversed the form finishing ahead of him at Leopardstown in the Matheson.

Again, in another superb contest he was leading the Irish Champion Hurdle after the last fence but was outstayed by Darver Star and Honeysuckle.

This year the 10 year old has been sold by Gigginstown and bought by Noel and Valerie Moran which saw him change hands from Henry De Bromhead to Gordon Elliott.

The gelding having finished second and third on his last two runs for De Bromhead, was consistent again on his debut for Elliott when a close third behind Sharjah and Aspire Tower in the Matheson Hurdle.

He is a well liked grey that always runs his race but has finished behind some of these two many times now to suggest he could cause an upset.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
04/04/21COR16Gd10-11F
19/03/21CHL17GS11-52
27/02/21FAI16Sft11-22
06/02/21LEO16Sft/Hy11-125
29/12/20LEO16Sft11-123

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