Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide to the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday...
"Deserves another chance to confirm earlier promise, still open to improvement in a more strongly-run race."
Tuesday 13th March
1. Buveur d'Air (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty)
The reigning champion took this race by four and a half lengths from My Tent Or Yours last season and, after completing three straightforward tasks with ease this term including two Grade 1s, looks very hard to oppose in his follow-up bid. Obvious form claims and looks sure to take all the beating in his repeat bid.
2. Ch'tibello (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton)
Acquitted himself well in all three starts this term, including when again filling runner-up spot behind Elgin in Kingwell Hurdle last time, but hard to imagine him being any more than a bit-part player here.
3. Charli Parcs (Nicky Henderson/Noel Fehily)
Failed to build on promising return (in listed race at Newbury) when well below form the last twice, finding little after travelling smoothly in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time (possibly unsuited by testing conditions). Bit to prove at present and even best form leaves him with loads to find here.
4. Elgin (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson)
Has enjoyed a very good season so far, winning listed handicap at Ascot and Greatwood Hurdle over C&D, both in November, before stepping up again to take the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton (by two and a half lengths from Ch'Tibello) last time, in command from two out on latter occasion. Supplemented for this race at a cost of £20,000 and no surprise to see him recoup a chunk of that, with genuine place prospects if continuing this season's progress.
5. Faugheen (Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh)
2015 champion but has been lightly raced due to injury since. Shaped as if retaining all of his ability after 22 months off when winning Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown (by 16 lengths from Jezki) in November, but failed to meet expectations in two subsequent starts, including when two and a quarter lengths second to Supasundae in Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last time (shaped as if amiss in between). No longer the force of old it seems, but still capable of high-class form and rates one of chief threats to Buveur d'Air as a result.
6. Identity Thief (Henry de Bromhead/Sean Flanagan)
Won Fighting Fifth Hurdle before finishing sixth in this race in 2016 but below that form since and, despite a good run in Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran last time, it's impossible to fancy him now he's stepping back into this more competitive environment.
7. John Constable (Evan Williams/Leighton Aspell)
Won Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May before defying 16 lb higher mark to follow up in Summer Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen in July. Ran right up to best when chasing home Buveur d'Air in listed event at Sandown last time, but no match for easy winner there and likely to be similar story again here.
8. Melon (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)
Second in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle behind Labaik. Won Grade 2 at Down Royal on return in November and improved further when two and a quarter lengths third to My Tent Or Yours in International Hurdle back here in December (too free). Below form in Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last time, but deserves another chance to confirm earlier promise, still open to improvement in a more strongly-run race.
9. Mick Jazz (Gordon Elliott/Davy Russell)
Took advantage of Faugheen's disappointing run in Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown in December and only third to Supasundae in Irish Champion Hurdle at same venue last time. A place likely to be the best he can hope for here.
10. My Tent Or Yours (Nicky Henderson/Aidan Coleman)
Second in this race for third time in four years when behind Buveur d'Air in 2016/17. Gained deserved win after eight months off in International Hurdle back here last time, battling better than has often looked the case. Kept fresh since with this race again the plan and should give another good account, though no obvious reason why he should reverse the placings with Buveur d'Air.
11. Wicklow Brave (Willie Mullins/Patrick Mullins)
Tenth in Melbourne Cup when last seen but has some high-class form to his name in this sphere, too, including when winning Punchestown Champion Hurdle (by one and a half lengths from My Tent Or Yours) on final 2016/17 start. Attitude got better of him (slow into stride and folded tamely) when only seventh in this race 12 months ago, however, and looks up against it again here.
12. Yorkhill (Willie Mullins/Danny Mullins)
Seemed to have the world at his feet when winning Neptune at this meeting (by one and three quarter lengths from Yanworth) in 2016. Enjoyed similarly promising campaign over fences last season (wins included JLT Novices' Chase back here 12 months ago), but proved very disappointing on both outings over fences this term, and needs switch back to hurdles to spark a big revival.
13. Verdana Blue (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Progressive in handicaps this season, winning at Ascot in November and shaping well in two subsequent starts, including when travelling best for long way in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time (possibly unsuited by conditions). Plenty to find at this level, though.
Timeform Champion Hurdle Cup 1-2-3
1. Buveur d'Air
3. My Tent Or Yours
Timeform Champion Hurdle Analyst's Verdict
BUVEUR D'AIR has barely broken sweat when landing all 3 starts this season and looks all set to win this race for the second year running. The fitting of a hood seemed to have an adverse effect on Melon in the Irish Champion and he's capable of bouncing back now with the headgear discarded, while My Tent Or Yours also makes the shortlist having finished runner-up in the race 3 times.