Cheltenham Festival: Irish Runners to Topple Buveur D’Air in 2019 Champion Hurdle?

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By Patrick Pierce

Buveur D’air is on the verge of rewriting the Cheltenham Festival history books. Having won the last two renewals of the Champion Hurdle, the Nicky Henderson stable star is looking to become only the sixth horse to secure three victories in the race.

However, Ireland’s biggest trainers are ready to tackle the defending champion in 2019 and plenty of punters will fancy Apple’s Jade and Laurina to get the job done. Let’s take a look at the three leading contenders ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival:

BUVEUR D’AIR

The defending champion has failed to inspire confidence in recent months, first losing as a short-priced favourite at Kempton Park on Boxing Day before having to work hard to beat four rivals at Sandown in February. Punters studying the guide to racing ahead of the Festival will see that course form is crucial and Buveur D’air has won twice at the Cheltenham Festival. That might be enough to tempt bettors to side with the defending champ.

A few of Henderson’s runners have struggled for form this season – Might Bite being the obvious example. You’d like to think that Henderson will have Buveur D’Air primed for a real push at a third Champion Hurdle, however, and horse racing website myracing tips him to win again.

Giving seven pounds to the mares could take its toll come race day but you have to respect Buveur D’Air’s achievements at the Festival. Write the defending champion off at your peril; Henderson may have a few tricks up his sleeve.

APPLE’S JADE

Still just 7 years old, Apple’s Jade has already achieved so much in her racing career. With 10 Grade One wins to her name, the Gordon Elliott runner may have what it takes to get her head in front in the opening Championship race at the Festival. The 2017 Mares’ Hurdle winner was disappointing at Cheltenham last year, but she can make amends for that performance this time around.

Unbeaten in four races this season, Apple’s Jade’s combined margin of victory is 73 lengths. She has made light work of some very smart horses, including Supersundae, Limini and Petit Mouchoir so victory in the Champion Hurdle could be on the cards. If you’re looking at recent form, she is the horse to beat this year.

Apple’s Jade will be difficult to stop if she jumps well and Buveur D’Air will have his work cut out come March 12th. Apple’s Jade is the second-favourite for the Champion Hurdle at 2/1 behind Buveur D’Air, ahead of the 7/2 Laurina. As Apple’s Jade will receive the mares’ allowance that should boost her popularity in the betting ring with punters come race day.

LAURINA

To a certain extent, Laurina is an unknown quantity – she could be anything. Willie Mullins has been lucky enough to train some of the most talented mares of all-time and Laurina may just be the next superstar from the yard. Can she do an Annie Power and beat the boys? It would be foolish to write her off based on her excursions over the last year.

Laurina is unexposed but the manner of that 48-length win over her sole rival at Sandown had a touch of class about it. Okay, so she didn’t really beat much on that day but the likes of Apple’s Jade and Buveur D’Air would have both struggled to keep tabs on the Mullins star that day.

The six-year-old is lightly raced and Mullins has been coy on her chances ahead of the 2019 Festival. Watch this space; Laurina could give her two market rivals a real battle up the Cheltenham hill.

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