Cheltenham Festival Previews – Champion Hurdle Runner-By Runner

Appreciate It can defy his long layoff and end Honeysuckle's unbeaten record.

Appreciate It can defy his long layoff and end Honeysuckle’s unbeaten record.

The field for the feature race on day one is now finalised. With ten going to post, Joe Napier has looked over each runner’s form and given his verdict on the 2022 Champion Hurdle.


Un Temps Pour Tout provided David Pipe’s last Cheltenham Festival winner in 2017, but ADAGIO brought an even leaner spell to an end in Grade 1s last season.

He won the 2020 (run in January 2021) edition of the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow. This was a first top level success for the team in the best part of five-and-a-half years. It was a barren spell, but also serves notice to the quality of this five-year-old.

Four starts since have brought only frustration, with four runner-up finishes to show on his form card. Two of those were in Grade 1 juvenile events, including last season’s Triumph Hurdle behind Quilixios.

He has done little wrong this term, finishing less than a length behind West Cork when top weight in the Greatwood Hurdle in November and there was no shame in being downed by Goshen at Wincanton. When on song, Gary Moore’s charge is as talented as any with the right conditions and that run may set Adagio up with an each-way chance.

Appreciate It

If any other trainer handled APPRECIATE IT, his absence of a year would frighten even his most fervent supporters.

However, he hails from Closutton and while many trainers would not dream of trying to win a Champion Hurdle first time out for the season, Willie Mullins’ ambition knows no bounds. Remember Quevega won the Mares’ Hurdle on her seasonal reappearance for six straight seasons, while Penhill won the Stayers’ Hurdle recently having been absent since Punchestown the previous season.

Suffice to say, Appreciate It looks to be an extremely talented horse. Despite being the same age as Honeysuckle, and nearly twice the size, he is much less experienced. Some may say that means he is simply less exposed and could have significantly more to offer.

Ultimately, his absence from the track is not seen as a negative and he blew away the field in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when last seen. That was not the strongest renewal, but he was barely asked to extend significantly when winning by 24 lengths.

Had he been asked, it may have been one of the greatest routs in the history of the Festival and is certainly comparable with Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle victory two hours later.

Glory And Fortune

It might seem like windmills are being tilted by Tom Lacey here, but with this division at a relatively low ebb, GLORY AND FORTUNE has earned his place at this level.

His season started as early as May when runner-up at Ludlow off a mark of 129. How times change. Two handicap victories in the autumn preceded respectable efforts in bigger prizes, namely the Greatwood Hurdle, before career bests.

He was a staying on second to Epatante in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle, before defying younger up-and-comers at 20/1 in the Betfair Hurdle. Those last two starts show he has almost certainly improved greatly for this season’s racing. Nevertheless, he will have to have improved at least the same amount between that last effort and now to stand any chance of featuring.

Not So Sleepy

Given he was fifth in the race last year at 150/1, it may surprise a few that NOT SO SLEEPY is widely available at triple-figure prices again.

Considering he has won a Grade 1 since, when dead-heating for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, there is an even greater shock factor. He could well appeal to each-way punters with a view to him regaining that thread.

He was, however, last of five at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle. He may well prove better as a fresher horse, with softer ground still a possibility, but even on a going day, he feels booked for a lesser finishing position here.

Saint Roi

A runaway winner of the County Hurdle in 2020, SAINT ROI has managed just the won victory since.

That came on his very next start in a Tipperary Grade 3, but Grade 1 company has regularly proven too much for him. He came closest on his first effort at that level when beaten only a neck by Abacadabras in the Morgiana Hurdle.

However, he has failed to threaten Honeysuckle on his only two starts against the great mare. Intriguingly, he has only been seen in fields of seven or fewer since winning at the Festival two years ago, but has never been outside the first four.

He could well have a chance of landing an each-way prize now that at least three places will be offered, but there are no realistic reasons he should unduly trouble the leading fancies.


TEAHUPOO skipped the Cheltenham Festival last season, but that may well have been a wise move for Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old.

He has only been beaten once in his career, when the upstart Boodles hero Jeff Kidder denied him in a Fairyhouse Grade 2 last season. This term has gone even more swimmingly, with three successes in as many starts.

The first two were against his own age group, and he thumped Triumph Hurdler Quilixios at Navan. The pair met again at Limerick, but under tougher conditions, Teahupoo still prevailed, albeit narrowly.

His superiority was confirmed much more significantly at Gowran Park most recently, when cruising clear of useful yardstick Darasso in his first start against his elders. That sets him up to be the dark horse in this contest and he cannot be safely ruled out.

Tommy’s Oscar

Ann Hamilton’s tiny yard have operated at a truly miraculous 43% strike rate this season and TOMMY’S OSCAR running in the Champion Hurdle is testament to their work.

The seven-year-old started out with two defeats at Wetherby and Carlisle, but has been a revelation since. He has since won four in a row, dropping in trip back to two miles in that time. Such was his rise through the ratings, that he went up 18lb to a mark of 156.

From that point, there was nowhere to go but Graded company, but Tommy’s Oscar took that rise in class with aplomb. He won The New One Hurdle at Haydock by five lengths without being fully extended.

On form, he could be massively underestimated. In truth, he could be as dangerous as any of the British contingent and may be a much better betting proposition than either Adagio or Epatante.


A curse seems to have befallen many of last season’s Triumph Hurdle protagonists.

Quilixios has not won since, while runner-up Adagio and fourth-placed ZANAHIYR have shown severe cases of seconditis. Zanahiyr did win on his return for the season in a Down Royal Grade 2, but Sharjah twice had his measure in Grade 1 company before Honeysuckle showed him up in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

There is reason for optimism with this boy however. Having made an error at the first hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival, he was the only horse to try to serve it up to Honeysuckle. In doing so, he looked to have shot his bolt, but he then stayed on gamely to maintain his run of seconds.

More patient tactics in a bigger field may work wonders for him and he looked immensely talented in his early juvenile days. While Honeysuckle should again be too good, he could well end up closer.


The world was EPATANTE’s oyster when she won the 2020 Champion Hurdle, but back issues began affecting her jumping and the recovery process is still ongoing.

Looking a relative shadow of her former self, she was only third in last season’s race. She then filled the same position at Punchestown, both times behind Honeysuckle and Sharjah, who had only been runner-up to her when she was queen two seasons ago.

There have been signs of a renaissance this term, albeit more still might have been expected. She could only dead-heat for the Fighting Fifth on her reappearance, while there looked little left in the tank when scoring in the Christmas Hurdle.

She has the experience and the form to make a good go of this once again and a sounder surface may well suit her. That said, there is not too much reason that she can make up ten lengths on the favourite.


Rachael Blackmore’s inspirational partnership with HONEYSUCKLE may well get its biggest test to date on Tuesday.

14 starts have provided 14 victories for Henry De Bromhead’s shining star. It is a formidable record and there have been as many gutsy, head bowed successes as there have been undisputed shows of dominance.

Perhaps that is why she is not a 1/3 shot. She is only a shade of odds-on in most markets, with the likelihood being that at least one member of this year’s Champion Hurdle field can serve it up to her more than ever before.

She peaked for the Festival last season and there is every chance she can do so again. A 15th win would be the roof-raiser of the opening day.


Honeysuckle’s unbeaten run will not last forever and despite his absence, the big horse APPRECIATE IT may be the one to do it. There is confidence that Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old will be none the worse for his long layoff and he looks easily the most talented horse Honeysuckle has ever faced at this trip. Zanahiyr is fancied above Teahupoo and Tommy’s Oscar for the places.

  1. Appreciate It
  2. Honeysuckle
  3. Zanahiyr