The Gordon Elliott-trained Tombstone is going to be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival later this month where he could be good enough to take advantage of what appears to be a wide open race this year.
The seven-year-old finished fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago on his debut at the meeting. The form of that contest has worked out well as the winner Altior is the short odds-on favourite for the Arkle Trophy, while the second, Min, has gone unbeaten in his novice chase campaign this season, and finally the third, Buveur D’Air, is the 11/4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle.
Tombstone’s entry into the Champion Hurdle will cost his connections £20,000. Therefore they must be confident their horse is good enough to be a genuine contender for the race. Their decision was made following his victory in the Grade Three Red Mills Trial Hurdle earlier this month where he finished fourth lengths ahead of Jezki in the 2m contest in an impressive performance.
Tombstone did not make his seasonal reappearance until January, when he returned at Navan and had to settle for third place behind Jezki and Renneti. His Irish trainer clearly thinks he is back to his best again now and wants to take his chance in the premier hurdle contest on the national hunt calendar. If you are looking to bet on the Champion Hurdle 2017 on Elliott’s runner, he is available at 14/1 at the time of writing.
The Irish horse will have to reverse its form with the market leader Buveur D’Air. However, he was only four lengths behind Nicky Henderson’s horse in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and if it wasn’t for a mistake at the fourth last obstacle from home, he may have got much closer to the third.
At the start of this season, the Champion Hurdle would not have been on the radar for Buveur D’Air. He had been schooling over fences all summer with the view to run him in a novice chase campaign. He made his opening run of the season at Haydock where he prevailed on his debut over fences. Later in the year, he kept his unbeaten record in novice chases with a win at Warwick to put himself in contention for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival. With a number of the Champion Hurdle contenders being ruled out for the season though, his connections opted to revert their horse back to hurdles at Sandown where he scored easily in a Listed race. That forced the bookmakers to slash his odds for the Champion Hurdle which is clearly now his target for the meeting.
Yanworth is second best in the Champion Hurdle betting at 7/2, however, there have to be serious questions asked about whether he has the speed to win this race over 2m. If it wasn’t for Unowhatimeanharry’s success in the Stayers’ division this season, he would probably be running over 3m.
The real value in the race at 14/1 has to be with Tombstone as there could be further improvement from the horse which would be enough to see him finish in the frame at the very least.