Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to Tuesday's Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and pick out their 1-2-3...
"Likely stronger pace and bigger field here in his favour..."
Timeform on Pentland Hills
1. Ballyandy (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies)
Won Champion Bumper in 2016 and finished fourth in Supreme 2017. Having best season over hurdles since now, showing good attitude when winning Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock (by nose from Pentland Hills, finding plenty to lead line) last time. Unlikely he will confirm that form here, though, and minor place money likely his best hope.
2. Call Me Lord (Nicky Henderson/James Bowen)
Smart sort who won International Hurdle on New Course (by neck from Ballyandy) in December, and ran to a similar level when three lengths second to Quel Destin in listed event at Sandown last time. Disappointing he couldn't win on that occasion, though, and looks set for a struggle in this company.
3. Cilaos Emery (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)
Grade 1-winning novice over hurdles in 2016/17 and has since developed into a top-class chaser, winning Poplar Square Chase at Naas in November and Hilly Way Chase at Cork in December. Made winning return to timber in Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran (by nine and a half lengths from Darasso) last time, and supplemented for this on Wednesday. Doesn't have much to find on ratings in an open renewal and folly to ignore his claims.
4. Coeur Sublime (Gordon Elliott/Davy Russell)
Finished three lengths third to Pentland Hills in Triumph Hurdle last season, and looked better than ever on return when winning WKD Hurdle at Down Royal (by 15 lengths from Coko Beach) in November. Reportedly had a breathing problem when below form in Matheson Hurdle won by Sharjah at Leopardstown last time, and has since undergone a wind operation. Each-way player.
5. Cornerstone Lad (Micky Hammond/Henry Brooke)
Smart front runner who had his big day when successful in Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (by short head from Buveur d'Air) in November. Gave it another good go from the front when three-quarter length third to Ballyandy in Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock last time, but will be much harder to dominate this field.
6. Darasso (Joseph O'Brien/Mark Walsh)
Looked rusty on return from 10 months off when last of four in Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, but much more like it when nine and a half lengths second to Cilaos Emery in Red Mills Trial Hurdle last time. 7 lb better off with that rival now, and entitled to get closer without posing a winning threat.
7. Darver Star (Gavin Cromwell/Jonathan Moore)
Completed four-timer in listed novice at Limerick (by one and a half lengths from Fast Buck) in October, and has showed much-improved form up in grade the last twice, latest when beaten half a length in second by Honeysuckle in Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Remains to be seen if he can back that effort up for last year's winning trainer.
8. Fusil Raffles (Nicky Henderson/Daryl Jacob)
Won AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown in May and Elite Hurdle at Wincanton (by three quarters of a length from Grand Sancy) in November. Possibly amiss when pulled up in Christmas Hurdle won by Epatante at Kempton last time, and worth another chance, though testing conditions would be a worry.
9. Gumball (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson)
Won listed handicap at Ascot (by neck from Red Force One) in November, and produced good effort when neck second to Harambe in Greatwood Hurdle (Handicap) here later in month. Well beaten after eight weeks off in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time (lost shoe), though, and this tougher still.
10. Le Patriote (Dr Richard Newland/Charlie Hammond)
Won Swinton Handicap at Haydock (by length from Project Bluebook) in May. Below that level after aix weeks off when 12 and a half lengths last to Mister Fisher in Lightning Novices' Chase at Doncaster on chasing debut last time, going in snatches. Hard to fancy.
11. Not So Sleepy (Hughie Morrision/Jonathan Burke)
Recorded excellent timefigure when winning handicap at Ascot in November, and duly followed up in style over same C&D in Betfair Exchange Trophy (by nine lengths from Monsieur Lecoq) next start. Best to ignore last run in Betfair Hurdle, having to race off the pace after starter did him no favours (also lost a shoe), but still left the impression he was in form. This demands much more, however.
12. Pentland Hills (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville)
Won Triumph Hurdle on just second start over hurdles last year. Shaped better than bare result on both starts this season, travelling best for much of the way when fifth behind Call Me Lord in International Hurdle on return, and unlucky not to have won Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock last time, out in front long enough and just collared on the line. Likely stronger pace and bigger field here in his favour, and a big run is expected having since undergone a wind operation. Big player.
13. Petit Mouchoir (Henry de Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore)
Last win over hurdles came in 2017 Irish Champion Hurdle. Still, hard to knock his consistency this season, finishing placed in Morgiana Hurdle, Matheson Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle (length third to Honeysuckle) last three starts. Hard to make claims for him from a win perspective again.
14. Sharjah (Willie Mullins/Mr Patrick Mullins)
Very smart hurdler who won Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown (for second consecutive year, by three and three quarter lengths from Petit Mouchoir) in December, and shaped as if amiss when sixth to Honeysuckle in Irish Champion Hurdle at same course last time. Type to quickly bounce back, but wouldn't want the ground too soft.
15. Silver Streak (Evan Williams/Adam Wedge)
Picked up pieces when third in this race 12 months ago. Didn't need to be at his best after seven months off to win listed event at Kempton in October, and has shown improved form behind Cornerstone Lad and Epatante last two starts. Hard to see him bettering last year's result, though.
16. Supasundae (Mrs Jessica Harrington/Robbie Power)
Won Coral Cup at this meeting in 2017 and finished runner-up to Penhill in Stayers' Hurdle in 2018. Shaped as if retaining all of his ability on return when four and three quarter lengths fourth to Honeysuckle in Irish Champion Hurdle last time, and should be cherry ripe for this now. Now a 10-year-old, but can't rule out in a substandard renewal.
17. Epatante (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty)
Flopped when sent off favourite for mares' novice at this meeting last year, but has looked a much-improved performer this season, winning listed handicap at Newbury in November and strong in the market when following up in Christmas Hurdle at Kempton (impressively, by five lengths from Silver Streak) last time, showing smart turn of foot. Receives valuable 7 lb mares' allowance, and has even more improvement in her, so has to be high on the shortlist.
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Timeform's Champion Hurdle Analyst Verdict
Nicky Henderson has a strong hand as he bids for an eighth win. PENTLAND HILLS was undone by his failure to settle in a steadily-run race at Haydock last time but a likely truer pace here should see him in a better light and he can improve past stablemate Epatante, who was so impressive in the Christmas Hurdle. Supasundae and Silver Streak should be involved in the battle for minor honours.
Timeform's Champion Hurdle 1-2-3
1. Pentland Hills