Eclipster: Cornerstone Lad could be in contention for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham

3:30 – Cheltenham – 2m½f (2m87y) (Old) Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)

The average number of runners in the Champion Hurdle over the last 10 years has been 11.6 with double figure fields in the last three renewals. This year’s renewal is no exception with 17 runners going to post in what looks a wide open event. With everything else going on in your busy day it can be hard to find the time to study the form lines carefully.

However, by considering the profiles of horses who have won the race previously it is possible to reduce the number of runners who need a closer look to a much smaller number.

  • Only two five-year-olds have won the race since 1985 – although Espoir D’Allen did win it last year
  • 21 of the last 22 winners ran in the same calendar year
  • 17 of the last 33 winners won on their last run before the Champion Hurdle
  • There have only been four winners over the age of eight since 1951
  • 19 of the last 27 winners had won at Cheltenham previously
  • Irish trained horses have won this race on 11 of the last 18 renewals
  • 13 of the last 14 winners had won at least three times previously over the race distance of 2 miles ½ furlong
  • 11 of the last 14 winners had run at least eight times over hurdles prior to the race
  • 10 of the last 14 winners were rated 163 or higher
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had won at least once at Grade 1 level

In such an open race, looking for some each way value on a runner at higher odds might pay dividends. Cornerstone Lad is having a very good season in Heavy and Soft going. The six year old bay gelding has run four times this season. He won on his first three starts including a battling win against Buveur d’Air, who he beat by a short head in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November.

Considering he started off his campaign by winning a Class 5 Handicap at Catterick he has come a long way. He is likely to give his backers a reasonable run for their money as he loves to front run. However, it will be extremely difficult to dominate a large field on his first run at Cheltenham and if he is still in contention after the last hurdle it will be interesting to see if he has enough left to stay on up the hill to the line.

 

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