For the final time in 2022, we are back at the home of jumps racing for another stellar weekend of action at Cheltenham. One of the most interesting races of the day comes in the form of the G2 International Hurdle, which is due off at 9:25 a.m ET.
There have been some famous winners of this race in the previous ten years, with The New One, My Tent or Yours, and Zarkandar all landing victories in the race. Nicky Henderson has trained the winner of this race on six previous occasions, and he has two live chances for a seventh win this weekend.
(3) I Like To Move It – 7/4
I Like To Move It had been the long-time favorite to win the International Hurdle, but he has been replaced at the top of the betting over the past 24 hours. The runner for Sam Twiston-Davies delivered a career-best effort at the Cheltenham meeting last month, as he landed the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle by five and a half lengths from Gin Coco.
That win saw him rise to a TS rating of 140, and he appears to have rediscovered his very best form. I Like To Move It does boast a solid enough record at Cheltenham away from the Festival, having landed victories on each of his three starts. But, this is another step up in opposition, and I’m not convinced that he has what it takes to throw his name into the Champion Hurdle mix.
(1) Knappers Hill – 7/2
There’s not a lot to dislike about Knappers Hill, as he has been incredibly consistent throughout his career. He returned to action after a summer break in October, beating Lord Baddesley by over two lengths at Chepstow. That was followed by another impressive display at Wincanton over a mile and seven furlongs to beat Sceau Royal by two lengths.
The six-year-old will surprisingly be making his first start at Cheltenham this weekend, and there are certainly questions about whether he has the stamina to get up the hill. But, off a rating of 141, he could be well in the mix to capture a famous win this weekend.
(2) First Street – 7/1
The first of the Nicky Henderson runners that is worth a second look this weekend is First Street. This five-year-old is the preferred mount of Nico de Boinville this weekend, and comes into the contest with a rating of 149, making him the second-highest-rated horse in the field. First Street returned to action for the first time since the Grand National meeting by winning at Newbury.
He finished two lengths clear of Grivetana that day, and he looked primed to make a challenge this weekend. His only previous run at Cheltenham came as he finished a very respectable second to the well-handicapped State Man in the G3 County Handicap Hurdle.
International Hurdle Pick: (5) Epatante – 6/4
I’m going to stick with my initial thought for this race, as I’ve liked Henderson’s Epatante for the International Hurdle since the first declaration was made. This eight-year-old isn’t getting any younger, but she has a very respectable record at the course, having finished second to Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle in March. She ended the season with a fine 14-length success at Aintree in the G1 Aintree Hurdle, before returning at Newcastle in the G1 Fighting Fifth.
It may be worth looking past that run, as the eight-year-old finished a very distant second to Constitution Hill. There was no shame in that defeat, as the victor will go on to become one of the very best National Hunt horses of all-time, but back at this level, Epatante looks to be the star.
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