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Wednesday 17th Nov 2021
Champion Hurdle Already Setting Up to Be a Battle of the Mares

"Handicap chase" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

The 2021 Champion Hurdle was won by Honeysuckle, with the mare coming away from the field up the hill to win by over six lengths. Go back 12 months before this to 2020, and the Nicky Henderson trained mare Epatante did exactly the same.

After years of male dominance, the Champion Hurdle is being taken over by mares who get the 7lb weight allowance from the boys. The 2022 renewal of the contest may be some way off yet, but it is already setting up to be a battle of the mares once again.

It is no surprise to see Honeysuckle installed as the favourite to win once again, with many of those who bet on horse racing already eyeing her up as a potential Cheltenham Banker. Epatante is backed as third favourite, and in between the previous two winners is Echoes in Rain, an improving five-year-old for the Willie Mullins team, who has won her last three races including at Grade 1 level at Punchestown in April.

Is the 7lb Allowance Fair?

There has been a lot of talk about the 7lb allowance given to mares when they run in a race like this, though the talk has only started since two mares have dominated the event. There is a chance that this will be looked at in the future, potentially lowering it, or maybe even scrapping it all together, though the second of those does seem unlikely.

However this goes, it is important to remember that the way in which Epatante won the Champion Hurdle in 2020 and how Honeysuckle won the race in 2021. They both won in a fashion where they didn’t need the allowance. Their victories were easy enough that they could have run off level weights and still won, so while you may agree or disagree with the weight allowance, the fact is that it hasn’t yet impacted on who has won the race.

Can Anyone Stop the Girls?

If you are looking to find someone to emerge and challenge the girls for the Champion Hurdle this season then there are a few options. What is great about these is that the horses involved are all young and improving, so this season could be a breakout season for them, really pushing them into contention for this championship race.

The likes of Ferny hollow, a previous Champion Bumper winner at the festival, and Appreciate It, second in that bumper, and a 24-length winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle last season, are worthy contenders.

Both will be interesting horses to watch at the start of this season, and assuming they go down the Champion Hurdle route, these are the types of horses that could come and dethrone the girls who have won the last two.

Of course, it is a long way to the festival, and anything can happen in between, but right now the mares hold the cards, and it is up to the boys to go out and prove they can contend and potentially win the Champion Hurdle.