Champion Hurdle Preview with Barry Geraghty

The Champion Hurdle is one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival. So who better to discuss it than the race’s joint-most successful jockey, Barry Geraghty?

With four victories in the Champion Hurdle, you will know more than most what is needed to win the race. What sort of horse do you need?

“Cheltenham is such a test of stamina so you need one that stays well but also they need the pace to go with it. It’s a really strong test of a horse. Maybe not so much this year, but the occasion can get to some horses as well. You need something with pace, something that jumps really well and you need to stay.

“EPATANTE did it well last year. She won like a filly who will improve and I think she showed good improvement with the way she won the Fighting Fifth. Physically she has improved. She’s stronger and she’s more relaxed, so she has a lot going for her. There was a back issue highlighted after she disappointed at Kempton at Christmas so that may explain her slightly below-par run. Nicky’s (Henderson) very happy with her so you’d like to think he’d get her there in similar form to last year. She should take the beating.”

You mentioned that the occasion can get to some horses. With there being no crowds at the course this year, is there a chance we could see some horses perform better than expected?

“Potentially, but it would be very subtle. In previous years you might’ve noticed some horses sweating a little bit as they’ve got themselves worked up and been restless in the stable before a race with all the noise. That might change this year. There are a lot of horses who have benefited from racing behind closed doors and the quieter days racing.”

“EPATANTE did it well last year. She won like a filly who will improve and I think she showed good improvement with the way she won the Fighting Fifth. Physically she has improved. She’s stronger and she’s more relaxed, so she has a lot going for her. There was a back issue highlighted after she disappointed at Kempton at Christmas so that may explain her slightly below-par run. Nicky’s (Henderson) very happy with her so you’d like to think he’d get her there in similar form to last year. She should take the beating.”

You mentioned that the occasion can get to some horses. With there being no crowds at the course this year, is there a chance we could see some horses perform better than expected?

“Potentially, but it would be very subtle. In previous years you might’ve noticed some horses sweating a little bit as they’ve got themselves worked up and been restless in the stable before a race with all the noise. That might change this year. There are a lot of horses who have benefited from racing behind closed doors and the quieter days racing.”

Are there any outsiders in the race you think have a good chance?

“I think SHARJAH has improved. He’s won the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown the last three years and was more impressive this year than any year on soft ground. Recently SILVER STREAK has been ridden handy, that has brought out a lot of improvement in him. He’s an eight-year-old so he’s been around a while but he’s still improving and I thought that was head and shoulders above anything he’s done before. I think Cheltenham will bring out the best in him as well so they’d be the two I’d be most conscious of if I was riding Epatante.”

With a strong horse like Silver Streak going from the front, as Epatante’s jockey, when would you aim to mount your challenge?

“Silver Streak doesn’t necessarily have to make the running but he’ll be handy so I suppose you’d challenge him late. If he’s in front jumping the last then you’re stalking him, you have to play your cards late.” 

 

Epatante is best priced at 5/2 with Bet 365

Silver Streak is best priced at 11/1 with Bet 365 and William Hill

Sharjah is best priced at 14/1 with William Hill

by Charlie Parker-Turner