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Henderson horse may prove a Top Notch each-way choice in Champion Hurdle

David Metcalf | March 14, 2016

Top Notch the Champion Hurdle value

Holder Faugheen’s absence means the 2016 renewal of the Champion Hurdle (15:30) has a widen open feel to it, and Top Notch looks decent each-way value to take this 2m Grade 1 feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Nicky Henderson trained gelding who has won six of his 10 starts over hurdles and finished in the frame on three occasions.

Those placed efforts include a fine 1/4 length runner-up to Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago over course and distance, and an excellent 1/4 length second to Identity Thief in this year’s Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Fighting Fifth form reads well

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Making a costly mistake two from home before rallying strongly, Top Notch was arguably unlucky in the latter but still got a runners-up spot and Coral are paying out a quarter of the odds for the first three past the post on each-way Champion Hurdle bets.

With Top Notch far from disgraced at Newcastle, then, Fighting Fifth winner Identity Thief has a progressive profile and since gone on to finish a fine two-length runner-up to Nichols Canyon in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.

It all amounts to making Henderson horse Top Notch very closely matched with those two Champion Hurdle rivals, who are far shorter in the betting.

Although not at his best next time up when fifth in the Relkeel Hurdle over further than the Champion Hurdle trip, Top Notch quickly bounced back to run out an impressive 12-length winner of the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso last month and appears to be peaking at exactly the right time.

Drop back in trip a concern for Annie Power

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Willie Mullins wouldn’t let Faugheen’s absence deter him from having a crack at defending the Champion Hurdle crown, and supplemented stablemate Annie Power now heads the market.

Launching a bid become the first mare to win this race since Dawn Run in 1984, Annie Power has won 10 of her 12 starts over the obstacles. She was four lengths clear and travelling strongly when falling at the final flight in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival meeting.

Annie Power looked as good as ever when making a winning return to action at Punchestown after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury, but the big question is whether the 2014 World Hurdle runner-up will have the speed to cope with the drop back in trip?

Only two horses opposed Annie Power in that Punchestown contest, with Mullins’ rivals keen to avoid showing their hand at a time when his leading mare held multiple entries into Cheltenham Festival races.

My Tent Or Yours should not be underestimated

Seven Barrows

Henderson’s stable companion to Top Notch, My Tent Or Yours, can also be a big Champion Hurdle player on the pick of his form.

The nine-year-old finished a fine second in the 2013 running of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and also ran a cracker to finish runner-up to Jezki in the 2014 running of this race.

My Tent Or Yours came with a strong run after the last to go down by a diminishing 1/4 of a length in the latter, but has not been seen in nearly two years since suffering an injury in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

It’s a huge ask for him to win a race of the nature after such a lay-off, but Henderson is the master at getting one spot on for the big day.

The New One, who finished just behind My Tent Or Yours when an unlucky in-running third in 2014, is attempting to make it third time lucky after finishing just fifth behind Faugheen 12 months ago and is another that can not be discounted.

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See all the latest Cheltenham tips and previews on our dedicated page.

Coral’s top tip: Top Notch looks worth an each-way wager in a wide open renewal of the Champion Hurdle. My Tent Or Yours and The New One, second and third respectively in 2014, both holding leading claims on the pick of their form.

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