|Grade 1, Cheltenham 15:30
2m 87y, Class 1
|Tuesday 15th March 2016|
Defending champion Faugheen (Willie Mullins), the odds-on favourite, stars among 19 entries for the Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle, the £400,000 feature race on the opening day of The Festival, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 15 at Cheltenham.
Faugheen put in a scintillating front running performance to land the Irish Champion Hurdle in facile fashion, at Leopardstown on January 24, and Coral cut him to 2/5 favourite (from 4/7) for the English equivalent.
The eight-year-old gave Mullins his sixth consecutive victory in the race with arguably the best performance of his career.
Faugheen cruised along in the hands of an ultra-confident Ruby Walsh and, when stablemate Nichols Canyon made a mistake at the second last when trying to mount a challenge, the race was over.
Unlike Nichols Canyon, the 30/100 favourite put in a lightening fast jump two from home before stretching effortlessly clear to beat his other stable companion Arctic Fire by 15 lengths.
It was a performance of immense power, and there is little doubt that Faugheen is going to be very hard to beat at the Festival if turning up in the same form.
The only question mark is whether he will be as effective if something can take him on in the early stages, as it was clear in the Irish Champion that jockey Paul Townend had been told not to get into a battle with Faugheen on Nichols Canyon, who has shown all his best form when attacking from the front.
Ireland's champion Jump trainer has also entered Sempre Medici, who was runner-up in the Grade Two StanJames.com International at The International at Cheltenham in December. There are five Irish-trained entries as Henry de Bromhead has entered this season's Grade One StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner Identity Thief .
Nicky Henderson is the joint most successful trainer ever in the Stan James Champion Hurdle with five victories and the Lambourn handler has made five entries this year. The quintet from Seven Barrows are dual Grade One winner and 2014 Stan James Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours, Sign Of A Victory and the first three horses home in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival last year - Peace And Co, Top Notch and Hargam.
Paul Nicholls landed the Champion Hurdle in 2012 with Rock On Ruby and has two entries this year - Old Guard and All Yours. Five-year-old Old Guard has proved himself at Cheltenham this season with wins in the Grade Three StanJames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at The Open and the Grade Two StanJames.com International in November but could only finish fourth behind Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle. All Yours was a Grade One winner at Aintree last season but disappointed on his only outing this campaign at Wincanton.
The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies) finished second to Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle and has lined up at The Festival the past four years, faring best when taking the 2013 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle. He has contested the Stan James Champion Hurdle twice, coming home third to Jezki in 2014 and fifth last year.
Of the 14 British-trained Stan James Champion Hurdle entries, 13 are located in England and one in Scotland. James Ewart, based near Langholm in Dumfriesshire, is responsible for the Scottish hope, Aristo Du Plessis who has won his last six completed starts, rising from a rating of 109 to 150 after his latest success in the £40,000 totepoolinfo.com Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle at Musselburgh on New Year's Day. Characteristically, the French-bred six-year-old made all the running under top-weight to triumph by four lengths.
The progressive Aristo Du Plessis will return to Musselburgh for the third consecutive time in the £25,000 Scottish County Handicap Hurdle on Sunday, February 7.
Ewart said: "Aristo Du Plessis is the flagship horse for us and we will consider our options after Musselburgh. We could go to Cheltenham but he is still a young horse and his main aim this season is the Scottish Champion Hurdle (a limited handicap hurdle at Ayr on April 16). But if he runs very well at Musselburgh and everybody is in agreement the Champion Hurdle will be seriously considered."
Aristo Du Plessis, owned by John and Jill Dodd who are based near Newcastle, is a 66/1 chance with Stan James.
Ewart continued: "He has not run in a Listed or Graded race but his rating is now 150 and he is rated not far off Grade One winners. We will have to see how he gets on in a level weights contest - hopefully the handicapper is right.
"Most of our horses are from France and he came through our usual connections. He won a National Hunt bumper in France and I went over and saw him. He is not much to look at but we did a piece of work with him and he shone so we bought him.
"He had exactly the same problem as Cue Card - a trapped epiglottis - and that was operated on last summer and has led to a marked improvement.
"So far so good with him but he has not moved up yet into graded races where everything is different. If the Champion Hurdle cuts up and there were only seven or eight runners then I could see us taking our place in the race.
"But we will know a lot more after Musselburgh. If he wins there and the handicapper raises him another 8lb then he would be rated the same as Peace And Co and would be entitled to be there. He is a very progressive horse. He should have won nine races - he was second in one (Sedgefield, February, 2015) when we got the tactics wrong and he fell at Wetherby (October, 2015) where he would have won if he had stood up.
"He is predominantly a speed horse and therefore you have got to use him from the front. It is tremendously exciting to have a horse like him - I have been training here since 2004 and I have only had two runners at the Cheltenham Festival because it is so hard to produce a horse good enough to go there let alone to compete in a Grade One Blue Riband contest like the Champion Hurdle. It is what we all work for."
Other entries include War Sound (Philip Hobbs), not seen out since landing the valuable Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park in May and Camping Ground (Robert Walford), who emerged as hurdler of rare talent when taking the Grade Two Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle over two and a half miles at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.
Completing the entries are the John Ferguson-trained pair of Parlour Games and Purple Bay, both Grade Two winners, plus Mad Jack Mytton (Jonjo O'Neill).
"As sponsors, and racing enthusiasts, we are delighted with the strength in depth to the entries in this year's Stan James Champion Hurdle," said Ed Nicholson, Head of Marketing at Unibet Group Racing, parent company of Stan James. "Not only do we have last year's first and second entered, in Faugheen and Arctic Fire, but last year's second favourite for the race, The New One and the first three from last season's Triumph Hurdle in Peace And Co, Top Notch and Hargam. When you add into the mix the only horse ever to beat Faugheen, Nichols Canyon, and Stan James Champion Hurdle Trials winners Old Guard and Identity Thief- you really have the who's who of two mile hurdling entered."
Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
£400,000 added, 4yo plus, 2m 87y, Class 1
Scratchings deadline February 16, £20,000 supplementary stage & six-day confirmation stage March 9, final declaration 10.00am, March 13.
|ALL YOURS (FR)||5||Mr & Mrs P Barber & Potensis Bloodstock Ltd||Paul Nicholls|
|ARCTIC FIRE (GER)||7||Wicklow Bloodstock (Ireland) Ltd||Willie Mullins IRE|
|ARISTO DU PLESSIS (FR)||6||Mrs J M Dodd||James Ewart|
|CAMPING GROUND (FR)||6||G L Porter||Robert Walford|
|FAUGHEEN (IRE)||8||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|HARGAM (FR)||5||J P McManus||Nicky Henderson|
|IDENTITY THIEF (IRE)||6||Gigginstown House Stud||Henry de Bromhead IRE|
|MAD JACK MYTTON (IRE)||6||J C & S R Hitchins||Jonjo O'Neill|
|MY TENT OR YOURS (IRE)||9||J P McManus||Nicky Henderson|
|NICHOLS CANYON||6||Andrea & Graham Wylie||Willie Mullins IRE|
|OLD GUARD||5||The Brooks, Kyle & Stewart Families||Paul Nicholls|
|PARLOUR GAMES||8||Bloomfields||John Ferguson|
|PEACE AND CO (FR)||5||Simon Munir & Isaac Souede||Nicky Henderson|
|PURPLE BAY (IRE)||7||Bloomfields||John Ferguson|
|SEMPRE MEDICI (FR)||6||Susannah Ricci||Willie Mullins IRE|
|SIGN OF A VICTORY (IRE)||7||Matt & Lauren Morgan||Nicky Henderson|
|THE NEW ONE (IRE)||8||S Such & C G Paletta||Nigel Twiston-Davies|
|TOP NOTCH (FR)||5||Simon Munir & Isaac Souede||Nicky Henderson|
|WAR SOUND||7||The Englands and Heywoods||Philip Hobbs|
CHAMPION HURDLE PREVIOUS RESULTS
2015-FAUGHEEN 7-11-10 Owner-Susannah Ricci; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-4/5 Fav
2ND-Arctic Fire 6-11-10 Owner-Wicklow Bloodstock Limited; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Danny Mullins; SP-20/1
3RD-Hurricane Fly 11-11-10 Owner-George Creighton & Rose Boyd; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Paul Townend ; SP-8/1
8 ran, Time-3m 50.90s; Dist-11⁄2, 5
2014-WINNER-JEZKI 6-11-10 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Jessica Harrington IRE; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-9/1
2ND-My Tent Or Yours 7-11-10 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-A P McCoy; SP-3/1
3RD-The New One 6-11-10 Owner-Sarah Such; Trainer-Nigel Twiston-Davies; Jockey-Sam Twiston-Davies; SP-10/3
9 ran, Time-3m 45.25s (new record); Dist-nk, 2½ 11/4 Fav Hurricane Fly (4th)
2013-WINNER- HURRICANE FLY 9-11-10 Owner-George Creighton & Rose Boyd; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-13/8 Fav
2ND-Rock On Ruby 8-11-10 Owner-The Festival Goers; Trainer-Harry Fry; Jockey-Noel Fehily; SP-11/2
3RD-Countrywide Flame 5-11-10 Owner-Estio Pinnacle Racing; Trainer-John Quinn; Jockey-Denis O’Regan; SP-16/1
9 ran, Time-3m 59.35s; Dist-2½, 1¾
2012-WINNER-ROCK ON RUBY 7-11-10 Owner-The Festival Goers; Trainer-Paul Nicholls; Jockey-Noel Fehily; SP-11/1
2ND-Overturn 8-11-10 Owner-Tim Leslie; Trainer-Donald McCain; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-20/1
3RD-Hurricane Fly 8-11-10 Owner-George Creighton & Rose Boyd; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-4/6 Fav
10 ran, Time-3m 50.10s; Dist 3¾, 1¾
2011-WINNER-HURRICANE FLY 7-11-10 Owner-George Creighton & Mrs Rose Boyd; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-11/4 Fav
2ND-Peddlers Cross 6-11-10 Owner-Tim Leslie; Trainer-Donald McCain; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-9/2
3RD-Oscar Whisky 6-11-10 Owner- Walters Plant Hire Ltd; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-7/1
11 ran, Time-3m 53.71s; Dist 11⁄4 , 5
2010-WINNER-BINOCULAR 6-11-10 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-A P McCoy; SP-9/1
2ND-Khyber Kim 8-11-10 Owner-Caroline Mould; Trainer-Nigel Twiston-Davies; Jockey-Paddy Brennan; SP-7/1
3RD-Zaynar 5-11-10 Owner- Men In Our Position; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Andrew Tinkler; SP-15/2
12 ran, Time-3m 53.80s; Dist-3½, 6 11/4 Fav Go Native (10th)
2009-WINNER-PUNJABI 6-11-10 Owner-Raymond Tooth; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-22/1
2ND-Celestial Halo 5-11-10 Owner-The Stewart Family; Trainer-Paul Nicholls; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-17/2
3RD-Binocular 5-11-10 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-6/4 Fav
23 ran, Time-4m 0.90s; Dist- nk, hd
2008-WINNER-KATCHIT 5-11-10 Owner-D S J P Syndicate; Trainer-Alan King; Jockey-Robert Thornton; SP-10/1
2ND-Osana 6-11-10 Owner-Thomas Barr; Trainer-David Pipe; Jockey-Tom Scudamore; SP-9/2
3RD-Punjabi 5-11-10 Owner-Raymond Tooth; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-25/1
15 ran, Time-4m 8.10s; Dist-1, 5 2/1 Fav Sizing Europe (14th)
2007-WINNER-SUBLIMITY 7-11-10 Owner-Bill Hennessy; Trainer-John Carr IRE; Jockey-Philip Carberry; SP-16/1
2ND-Brave Inca 9-11-10 Owner-Novices Syndicate; Trainer-Colm Murphy IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-11/2
3RD-Afsoun 5-11-10 Owner-Trevor Hemmings; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Mick Fitzgerald; SP-28/1
10 ran, Time-3m 55.70s; Dist-3, nk 6/4 Fav Detroit City (6th)
2006-WINNER-BRAVE INCA 8-11-10 Owner-Novices Syndicate; Trainer-Colm Murphy IRE; Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-7/4 Fav
2ND-Macs Joy 7-11-10 Owner-Mac’s J Racing Syndicate; Trainer-Jessica Harrington IRE; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-13/2
3RD-Hardy Eustace 9-11-10 Owner-Lar Byrne; Trainer-Dessie Hughes IRE; Jockey-Conor O’Dwyer; SP-11/2
18 ran. Time-3m 50.00s; Dist-1, 3½
2005-WINNER-HARDY EUSTACE 8-11-10 Owner-Lar Byrne; Trainer-Dessie Hughes IRE; Jockey-Conor O’Dwyer; SP-
7/2 Jt Fav
2ND-Harchibald 6-11-10 Owner-Des Sharkey; Trainer-Noel Meade IRE; Jockey-Paul Carberry; SP-7/1
3RD-Brave Inca 7-11-10 Owner-Novices Syndicate; Trainer-Colm Murphy IRE; Jockey-Barry Cash; SP-10/1
14 ran, Time-3m 51.50s; Dist-nk, nk 7/2 Jt Fav Back In Front (9th)
2004-WINNER-HARDY EUSTACE 7-11-10 Owner-Lar Byrne; Trainer-Dessie Hughes IRE; Jockey-Conor O’Dwyer; SP-33/1
2ND-Rooster Booster 10-11-10 Owner-Terry Warner; Trainer-Philip Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-11/8 Fav
3RD-Intersky Falcon 7-11-10 Owner-Interskyracing.com & Jacqui O’Neill; Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill; Jockey-Liam Cooper; SP-8/1
14 ran, Time-3m 54.50s; Dist-5, 4
2003-WINNER-ROOSTER BOOSTER 9-12-00 Owner-Terry Warner; Trainer-Philip Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-9/2
2ND-Westender 7-12-00 Owner-Matt Archer & Jean Broadhurst; Trainer-Martin Pipe; Jockey-Rodi Greene; SP-33/1
3RD-Rhinestone Cowboy 7-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Jonjo O’Neill; Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-5/2
Fav 17 ran, Time-3m 54.70s; Dist-11, 3
2002-WINNER-HORS LA LOI III 7-12-00 Owner-Paul Green; Trainer-James Fanshawe; Jockey-Dean Gallagher; SP-10/1
2ND-Marble Arch 6-12-00 Owner-Martin Wilson, Rory Sweet and Mary Wilson; Trainer-Hughie Morrison; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-25/1
3RD-Bilboa 5-11-09 Owner-Jorg Vasicek; Trainer-Francois Doumen FR; Jockey-Thierry Doumen; SP-14/1
15 ran, Time-3m 53.80s; Dist- 3, ½ 2/1 Fav Istabraq (pu)
2000-WINNER-ISTABRAQ 8-12-00 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-8/15 Fav
2ND-Hors La Loi III 5-12-00 Owner-Paul Green; Trainer-Francois Doumen FR; Jockey-Dean Gallagher; SP-11/1
3RD-Blue Royal 5-12-00 Owner-Lynn Wilson; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Mick Fitzgerald; SP-16/1
12 ran, Time-3m 48.10s; Dist-4, nk
1999-WINNER-ISTABRAQ 7-12-00 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-4/9 Fav
2ND-Theatreworld 7-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Tommy Treacy; SP-16/1 3RD-French Holly 8-12-00 Owner-Kieran Flood; Trainer-Ferdy Murphy; Jockey-Andrew Thornton; SP-11/2
14 ran, Time 3m 56.7s; Dist-3½, 2½
1998-WINNER-ISTABRAQ 6-12-00 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-3/1 Fav
2ND-Theatreworld 6-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Tommy Treacy; SP-20/1
3RD-I’m Supposin 6-12-00 Owner-Nicholas Cooper; Trainer-Richard Rowe; Jockey-Richard Dunwoody; SP-6/1
18 ran, Time 3m 49.1s; Dist-12, 1
1997-WINNER-MAKE A STAND 6-12-00 Owner-Peter Deal; Trainer-Martin Pipe; Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-7/1
2ND-Theatreworld 5-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-33/1
3RD-Space Trucker 6-12-00 Owner-Elaine Queally; Trainer-Jessica Harrington IRE; Jockey-John Shortt; SP-9/2
17 ran, Time-3m 48.4s, Dist-5, ¾ 7/2 Fav Large Action (pu)
1996-WINNER-COLLIER BAY 6-12-00 Owner-Wally Sturt; Trainer-Jim Old; Jockey-Graham Bradley; SP-9/1
2ND-Alderbrook 7-12-00 Owner-Ernie Pick; Trainer-Kim Bailey; Jockey-Richard Dunwoody; SP-10/11 Fav
3RD-Pridwell 6-12-00 Owner-Jones, Berstock and Fleet Partnership; Trainer-Martin Pipe; Jockey-Chris Maude;
SP-33/1 16 ran, Time-3m 59.0s, Dist-2½, 6
1995-WINNER-ALDERBROOK 6-12-00 Owner-Ernie Pick; Trainer-Kim Bailey; Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-11/2
2ND-Large Action 7-12-00 Owner-Brian Stewart-Brown; Trainer-Oliver Sherwood; Jockey-Jamie Osborne; SP-4/1 Jt Fav
3RD-Danoli 7-12-00 Owner-Dan O’Neill; Trainer-Tom Foley IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-4/1 Jt Fav
14 ran, Time-4m 03.1s, Dist-5, 2