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Friday 20th November 2020
Four Hot Ante Post Favourites for Champion Hurdle Day at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

Champion Hurdle by Carine06, on Flickr
"Champion Hurdle" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

Champion Hurdle day always kicks the Cheltenham Festival off with a bang. The card contains four Grade 1 races and one of the most historic events, the National Hunt Chase, in the history of British equine competition.

Even at an early stage in the jumps season, well ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, which starts on Tuesday, 16 March, there are some hot betting favourites in the ante-post markets for key races. Let's take a look at which horses are already well-fancied.

Shishkin (Arkle Challenge Trophy)

Although he is yet to jump a fence in public, Nicky Henderson's 2020 Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Shishkin is expected to go chasing this season. With horse betting odds of 3.80 (roughly 11/4) on the exchanges for the Arkle, a second consecutive Cheltenham Festival victory appears on the cards.

For some punters, that ante-post price is plenty short enough. Shishkin hails from the same stables that produced top two-mile chasers Sprinter Sacre and Altior. He still has a long way to go to match what either of those National Hunt equine heroes did in their careers, but his future is very bright.

Epatante (Champion Hurdle)

Progressive Henderson mare Epatante took her form to a whole new level in winning the Champion Hurdle last March. She stepped in for popular stable companion Buveur d'Air, whose season ended no sooner than it had begun after picking up a freak injury in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

On the same day as that accident occurred, Epatante was winning an intermediate handicap best known as the Gerry Feilden at Newbury. Following that Listed success, Epatante won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and then enhanced Henderson's fabulous record at Cheltenham.

Her Champion Hurdle rivals all have something to prove and that is reflected in the betting on the next renewal. Epatante is 4.3 (about 100/30) to retain her crown with the prospect of maybe even more to come.

Honeysuckle (Mares' Hurdle)

If a horse is unbeaten, then they are always going to be a short price. That is the case with Honeysuckle, who, including her Irish point-to-point success, is undefeated in nine starts.

One of the stars of the Henry De Bromhead yard in Ireland, this mare has excelled over two-and-a-half miles and landed the Mares' Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. With Honeysuckle taking a similar route back to the big meeting, she is just over 7/2 (4.60) to retain her crown.

De Bromhead and her owner must decide whether they will run there or try their luck in the Champion Hurdle. As the betting suggests, Honeysuckle is clearly preferred by punters to tackle her fellow mares again.

Galvin (National Hunt Chase)

Irish trainer Gordon Elliott has won the National Hunt Chase three times since 2015, twice booking Jamie Codd for the amateur-riders-only event. In Galvin, the County Meath handler has a horse with plenty of experience for this long-distance event.

Although only open to novice chasers, Galvin retained that status for this season but ran a fine race in defeat in a Listed handicap at last year's festival. Elliott is adamant that the increased stamina test is right up his alley too.

Following an impressive win over three miles at Cheltenham in October, it was revealed that the National Hunt Chase was the plan for Galvin. He is 6.0 (5/1) in the ante-post market and would be the same age as previous winners sent out from the stable in Cause Of Causes and Tiger Roll.