In the first of a series of Cheltenham ante post tips, SportsLens experts give their value punts on big races for the Festival. They say five-year-olds don’t have a brilliant record in the Champion Hurdle, yet eight have been placed since 2007 and the search for each way value behind or against red-hot favourite Honeysuckle should not discount them.
Between a quarter and a third of this year’s 23 Champion Hurdle entries come from this age bracket. The ante post market has an as you were look about it with three of the first four in the betting the 1-2-3 from last season. Appreciate It is the odd one out here yet hasn’t jumped a hurdle since his serene Supreme success at the 2021 Festival. His chasing career on hold, interrupted preparation isn’t ideal.
Sharjah and Epatante command respect for being best of the rest behind Honeysuckle but neither looks open to improvement. In theory at least, the five-year-old brigade should have further progress in them. As Katchit and Espoir D’Allen show, it’s not impossible for younger horses to have their day in the Cheltenham sun either.
Adagio has never been out of the first two in four career starts at Prestbury Park, yet is as big as 33/1 for Champion Hurdle glory on horse racing betting sites including QuinnBet. Handling the undulations of Cheltenham is all-important and David Pipe’s charge has run two blinders in defeat on his most recent visits to the track.
Who hasn’t had a schoolboy snigger or schoolgirl giggle at the name of Adagio’s German sire Wiener Walzer? That which we call a rose and all that. Both Adagio and Honeysuckle trace their breeding back to Hernando. For the favourite, this is her grandsire. For Adagio, his damsire.
Adagio not just for strings but Champion Hurdle punters
Both do and should get further. You have to stay to win the Champion Hurdle, even though the Old Course isn’t as testing as the New. In a race of biblical proportions, the Franco-German pedigree of Adagio may be the perfect storm. The opening day of the Festival can often be the softest ground encountered by horses and those conditions will suit him just fine.
Adagio was quite a forward juvenile hurdler, winning three of his first four starts since joining Pipe’s Pond House team. There was one too good on each occasion at the spring festivals, but he was a great each way play in the Cheltenham betting on the Triumph at a 10/1 SP. Where are his conquerors now? Quilixios has disappointed in three subsequent starts, while Monmiral finished lame in the Fighting Fifth.
But for the laid out handicap blot West Cork, Adagio would have won the Greatwood Hurdle despite a welter burden. It was a great weight carrying performance from this horse first time out under 11st 12lb. He had the Persian War, Betfair Exchange Trophy and Welsh Champion Hurdle winners amongst those in-behind.
The fifth and seventh home have come out and won since, while Glory And Fortune in sixth that day has since finished second to Epatante in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle. Adagio tried to give 13lb to the winner and pulled clear of these others. He is bang up there with the top rated British horses with Not So Sleepy, now on a mark of 159 that flatters him, gleefully discounted.
Worse Cheltenham ante post tips in race lacking depth
That November Meeting effort from Adagio really was quite taking. At the time of writing, we haven’t seen him since but he does have an early closing entry in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Adagio could easily end up top weight in that where he may be vulnerable to novices lurking towards the bottom of the handicap.
Another good show there, though, and that Champion Hurdle price of 33/1 will almost certainly be cut. There isn’t a great deal of depth to the first of Cheltenham’s big championship races this year, so punters looking for a lively outsider could certainly do worse. Adagio has other five-year-olds in front of him in the market but they arguably haven’t been as consistent.
These types are priced up by traders at online bookmakers on potential instead. That is a consideration for this renewal of the Champion Hurdle but also applies to Adagio. It’s lazy to pick one of the usual suspects here, so betting on a progressive type who could hit the frame could be better value.
Nobody can say Sharjah and Epatante have been missed in the market. It would’ve been interesting if connections of the latter tried stepping her up in trip and going down the Mares Hurdle route. As it is, Adagio looks one of the value each way Cheltenham ante post tips at 33/1 with QuinnBet for the Champion Hurdle.
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