The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival. This race has been dominated for the past two seasons by mares, with Honeysuckle winning the race in great style last season, and Epatante the year before doing exactly the same.
Mares get a 7lb allowance in the race because they are taking on the boys in the highest grade. However, that hasn’t been an issue over the last two years, and not only that, but punters have fancied those horses to win too, as both have been sent off as favorite to win. The betting for the 2022 Champion Hurdle looks familiar, with Honeysuckle the favorite and Epatante the second favorite. Those betting on horse racing, and choosing one of the mares, will be hoping for the same outcome as we have seen before.
Are There Any Credible Challengers?
The reason why Honeysuckle is such a strong favorite already, and why Epatante is in behind here is simply because there are very few credible challengers. Sharjah has finished second behind them both in the last two years but was well beaten and it would take a huge swing in form to see this turned around.
Honeysuckle cruises to the Unibet Champion Hurdle
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 16, 2021
There are many younger horses in the betting, who are stepping out of novice company but there is no guarantee that the Champion Hurdle will be the route they go down. Appreciate It made a big impression when winning the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the 2021 festival, and if he stays over the smaller obstacles, may be the best challenger.
As for the rest of the field, this is likely to be finalized nearer to the race. There are many horses in the betting that have many festival options, including some that could go over fences, or could stick to hurdles. As this all works itself out and we get closer to March 2022, we should see a solid field form so that we can really see what the likes of Honeysuckle and Epatante have to beat.
Should Mares Keep the 7lb Allowance?
There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of years about the mare’s allowance. Should either one of the mares win this race again in 2022, there will no doubt be more discussion about it. The fact is that, whether this goes or not in the future, both horses have won with ease over the past two years, and the allowance wouldn’t have stopped them from doing that.
Honeysuckle’s 2021 Champion Hurdle wincame by six and a half lengths, and there was no doubt that if she needed to pull out a little more, she would have done. The way she powered up the hill, she had plenty left to give, and whether she had the allowance to help or not, she was the only winner of the race.
If she wins again, talk about the allowance will come, but at the moment, it may not be enough to stop her dominance.