Going into the Unibet Champion Hurdle this past weekend, there were three major players that stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field. By the time the winner crossed the finish line, it wasn’t the way punters imagined the results would be.
During this time of year, the hurdlers and chasers garner the attention of gambling enthusiasts from all over the European continent. That includes drawing the interest of online casino gamblers and sports bettors who are willing to refocus their gambling efforts toward Grand National betting offers for 2019 in anticipation of the big race in April. If the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham is any indication of what’s to come, this year’s edition of the Grand National could be an outstanding race.
As mentioned above, the winner of the Group 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle was supposed to come from a group of three primary contenders with seven pretenders lying in wait. As the race progressed, racing fans were left in dismay as one contender after the another fell by the waste side.
First up was race second-choice Buveur D’Air, a horse bidding for a Champion Hurdle hat-trick after taking down this event in 2017 and 2018. He only managed to make to the end of the third flight before a jumping resulted in his jockey taking a seat on the turf for the rest of the race.
Trainer Nicky Henderson seemed to take the result in good spirit: “He seems fine. Actually, he nearly won the race but unfortunately there’s a rule that says you have to have a jockey on top. We all have to take these things on the chin. You have a winner and then you’re back to square one. With his hurdling, there’s such a fine margin, an inch every time and you only have to get it wrong by half an inch. He was an inch lower than he should have been, I guess. I don’t know – I’d have to see it again.”
Next up was race favourite was Irish mare Apple’s Jade (7-4). Early on in the race, it was very clear this wasn’t going to be her day. As jockey Jack Kennedy was niggling away at her, she made it clear her mind was not on running. While third-choice Laurina seemed to be travelling in fine fettle, the reality was she was also struggling mightily. The Irish mare’s performance was disappointing enough to prompt trainer Willie Mullins to state the following:
“I thought Laurina was a bit disappointing. She was beaten so far out. I’d imagine she’ll go chasing next season, and to Punchestown first. I’d say she’ll be stepped up in trip over fences next year, but we’ll start her out over two miles.”
As for the winner, Espoir D’Allen (16-1) ran a bang-up race, clobbering the field by an astounding 15-lengths. She was followed across the finish line by the Mullins-trained Melon. That makes Melon a hard-luck two-time runner-up in this important event. Next up for hurdle fans will be the Grand National, scheduled for April 6th at Raintree.