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Champion Hurdle Odds: State Man heads the market in Constitution Hill’s absence

The biggest news in the build up to the 2024 Cheltenham Festival was undoubtedly the story that unfolded surrounding Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill, who won the 2023 Champion Hurdle and is widely regarded as the best horse in the world right now.

It was reported that, two weeks before the festival, he had performed badly in a warm-up before the subsequent scope showed signs that the unbeaten star had an infection. Further tests followed and Constitution Hill was a confirmed non-runner by Henderson just a week before he was set to defend his crown.

That has made the Champion Hurdle a slightly more open contest this time around, with many believing Constitution Hill was unbeatable. State Man - who ran Henderson’s mount closest last year - is now the odds-on favourite, and could justify favouritism with ease, but there are plenty of intriguing contenders among the field.

Champion Hurdle odds

(Odds will display when the market is available)

State Man

State Man has enjoyed an unbeaten streak since his nine-length defeat to Constitution Hill in this contest last year, winning twice at both Leopardstown and Punchestown, and he is a solid favourite to take the prize in his foe’s absence.

He is well clear of next-best Irish Point in the ratings and is trained by Cheltenham maestro Willie Mullins and will be ridden by the excellent Paul Townend.

State Man looked like a Champion Hurdle winner in the making when Irish equivalent at Punchestown in February and, with ground to suit, he is difficult to oppose.

Irish Point

Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point is somewhat of an unknown quantity. He won the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown in spectacular fashion, beating Asterion Forlonge by 11 lengths, but he is making his Cheltenham debut and is dropping back down six furlongs from that success.

His sole run in the UK was successful, however, as he won at Aintree’s Grand National meeting last year when landing the Turners Mersey Novices’ Hurdle in April, suggesting he may take to these shores just fine.

Asking him to compete with State Man is a huge task but, with a hurdle record of five wins and two seconds from eight runs, he may still have untapped potential if recalibrating to this shorter trip quickly and could provide a shock.

Iberico Lord

At the prices, Iberico Lord could be one to look out for. His Betfair Hurdle win in February was exceptional, as he was towards the rear of a field of 21 runners before making rapid headway two out to eventually take the prize in dramatic fashion.

Worth noting also is the fact he is the sole course and distance winner in the field, having won at Cheltenham in November last year. He had re-opposing rivals Luccia and Nemean Lion behind that day while the form of his Betfair Hurdle win has been franked thanks to multiple next-time-out winners.

Iberico Lord’s form is strong and, with Constitution Hill out, Henderson can focus his attention entirely on this six-year-old. Nico de Boinville would have been on the defending champion but will be in the plate on Iberico Lord instead, which could bring further improvement.

Not So Sleepy

The prices take a significant drop to the fourth-best in the market, Not So Sleepy, who has lost in this race four years in a row.

He has won twice since his latest Cheltenham defeat, most recently at Sandown in a four-runner race in December, but he was 32 lengths off Constitution Hill in the 2023 edition and this 12-year-old veteran is unlikely to make much of an impact again.

Zarak The Brave

This five-year-old has modest form in the grand scheme of things, with Grade 3 victories the best he has to show in his relatively short career so far, and is unlikely to trouble stablemate State Man too much.

He has potential, but this race is likely to come too soon for Zarak The Brave, especially when it is considered all of his wins have come with Townend in the plate, who will be on State Man for this contest.

Nemean Lion

Although Nemean Lion’s sole Cheltenham run saw him beaten convincingly into fifth in November - in the race won by Iberico Lord - he has looked progressive otherwise and has landed some big prizes, namely the Welsh Champion Hurdle and Kingwell Hurdle.

His second in the Lanzarote was also strong form and he could outrun his odds at Prestbury Park.

Luccia

Luccia flopped when favourite for the Novices’ Mares’ Hurdle at the festival last year but has shown signs of promise since, most notably when winning at Ascot in December.

She will need to improve on that run to land this much more competitive prize but she will be receiving 7lb all round, suggesting this consistent mare could make the frame for the Henderson yard.

Colonel Mustard

With just one victory from his 13 hurdle efforts, it is unsurprising to see Colonel Mustard at the foot of the market in a field containing so many serial winners.

First-time blinkers will need to bring a huge amount of improvement if the exposed nine-year-old is to pull off one of the biggest shocks in Cheltenham Festival history.

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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