The extended 2m Grade 2 International Hurdle is one of two big races during the last meeting of 2021 at Cheltenham on Saturday, 11 December (3:00). Formerly known as the Bula Hurdle, this is the only Champion Hurdle trial that takes place at the home of British jumps horse racing. SportsLens experts give their International Hurdle betting tips based on the five-day entries.
Key trends for this race include each of the last six winners having an official rating of 156-162. Only one potential runner meets that criteria based on this year’s entries, though. Favourites have a 50 per cent success rate across the last eight renewals, meanwhile, so the market on horse racing betting sites can be a useful guide.
There haven’t been any rank outsiders win the International Hurdle recently with 7/1 the biggest SP since 2009. Race fitness does look important, however. Six of the last eight winners came into the contest off the back of a run. Five of the seven most recent victors did so between three weeks and a month beforehand.
It’s no surprise then, that some of the key race trials for this are the Coral Hurdle at Ascot, Greatwood Hurdle at the November Meeting here and Elite Hurdle at Wincanton. Adagio ran a blinder here last month but a setback causes him to miss the race. In his absence, let’s take a look at the International Hurdle betting tips from our experts…
Why Song For Someone is the International Hurdle betting favourite
Last year’s winner Song For Someone is now one of two course and distance winners in the possible line-up. This race takes place on the New Course, a stiffer and more galloping test than the Old Course that is used earlier in the autumn and for the Champion Hurdle. On paper at least, Song For Someone should find this easier than 12 months ago when he just prevailed by a nose from Silver Streak.
The runner-up came out and landed the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, so the form looks good. Judged on it, Song For Someone has nothing to fear from the potentially re-opposing fourth, Sceau Royal, who has won two of his three starts this season. Tom Symonds’ six-year-old Medicean gelding could meet that one off level terms again if both turn up.
Song For Someone doesn’t want the going to turn heavy, however. He has been beaten four times in bottomless ground. The effects of Storm Barra hitting the British Isles remain to be seen at the time of writing. Only a race-fit Buzz off the Flat prevented Song For Someone from retaining his Coral Hurdle crown at Ascot on reappearance, so he could come on for that.
It is easy to see why the top betting sites make him favourite for a second International Hurdle here. A serious Champion Hurdle contender emerging from this contest looks unlikely, but Song For Someone could take all the beating. Odds of 2/1 with William Hill say he makes a successful defence and emulates The New One.
Weather watch means don’t back Sceau Royal ante post
The more rain and worse that falls at Cheltenham lessens the chance that ratings topper Sceau Royal runs in this race. Alan King’s nine-year-old Doctor Dino gelding has been a grand servant to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, but needs good in the going description if he’s to be seen to best effect.
Sceau Royal saw his finishing kick blunted by the soft ground in this 12 months ago. It was a similar story in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle when last in action on going softened by snow. Sceau Royal came into that Grade 1 seeking a hat-trick after wins at Kempton and then a third Elite Hurdle around Wincanton.
However, he couldn’t go with old rival Epatante and Not So Sleepy, who forced a dead-heat in the Gosforth Park gloom. Four runs in less than two months proved beyond Sceau Royal last season, so there is no reason to suppose otherwise this term. He does take his racing well but no recent International Hurdle winner has had more than two outings in the campaign.
At a top-price 3/1 with Bet365, Sceau Royal isn’t an attractive betting proposition. Punters who back him ante post risk losing the stake if conditions get muddier as expected. Should the storms not batter the Prestbury Park turf, that is in the lap of the weather gods. Sceau Royal doesn’t look like he will get his ground here, so can be opposed easily enough.
Guard Your Dreams an interesting contender
Cheltenham local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won four of the last 12 renewals of the International Hurdle and only Nicky Henderson boasts a better record. In Guard Your Dreams, he has a Showcase Meeting handicap winner dropping back in trip. This five-year-old Fame And Glory gelding has just over two lengths to find with Song For Someone on his last outing too.
Guard Your Dreams ran really well behind established graded hurdlers at Ascot. Given his relative youth, he could still have more improvement in him. He was nearest at the finish in both the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury when sixth and a fine third over 2m 4f in an Aintree Grade during his novice campaign last season.
Those efforts on flat tracks suggested stiffer tests may suit. Guard Your Dreams confirmed that impression with his October victory on the Old Course here. The form isn’t too shabby with the third and fourth home scoring next time out. Guard Your Dreams is 5/1 with BoyleSports in the ante post market for this.
Ballyadam has point to prove if contesting International Hurdle
Irish trainer Henry De Bromhead could send Supreme Novices’ Hurdle second Ballyadam over to Cheltenham again on the comeback trail. Following a gallant success in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse just over a year ago, this Cheveley Park Stud owned six-year-old kept bumping into Appreciate It. In three subsequent starts against that Willie Mullins mount, Ballyadam couldn’t land a blow.
He then had an opportunity free from Appreciate It at Aintree, but flopped and didn’t make the frame. This was a disappointing effort from Ballyadam that sticks in the memory. As an Irish Point winner, and also successful in an extended Downpatrick bumper, the International Hurdle trip of 2m may be plenty sharp enough for him.
Connections look short on options, however. Ballyadam hasn’t looked a natural in two tries over fences this autumn, so a return to hurdles could well be on the card. Whether that comes here or at home in Ireland over Christmas remains to be seen. The fact that Ballyadam has the same official UK hurdles rating as Wilde About Oscar, who has no graded form to his name, speaks volumes. It’s 6/1 with William Hill that he resumes winning ways here.
Other entries hard to fancy
Munir and Souede also have Fusil Raffles among the entries. However, dropping markedly back in trip after winning the Charlie Hall Chase over 3m at Wetherby in this grade makes little sense. Although trainer Nicky Henderson has a record six wins in the International Hurdle, Fusil Raffles could also run in the December Gold Cup over fences on this card.
The aforementioned Wilde About Oscar won four of his six hurdles outings last term. Cleverly placed by trainer Dan Skelton, this would be a big step up for the six-year-old son of Oscar. If the rain does come and it turns heavy, then his Listed victory over The Glancing Queen at Exeter starts to look like good form, though.
Wilde About Oscar saw the runner-up make a successful chase debut against fellow mares at Bangor this autumn. The Glancing Queen could run again in Listed company at Warwick on Thursday. Oscar Elite was third home at Exeter and placed in both the Albert Bartlett and Sefton Novices’ Hurdle races at the spring festivals.
Even the fifth and sixth home, Grandeur D’Ame and Yggdrasil, have won races this season. Wilde About Oscar could outrun best odds of 14/1 with Bet365 here, yet has no past Cheltenham experience and must bounce back from two poor efforts at Aintree either side of a summer break.
Heaven Help Us, meanwhile, is a difficult mare to catch right. She is well-treated at the weights and won the Grade 3 Coral Cup at the Festival. Her record on the Old Course will be of obvious interest to some punters, yet Paul Hennessy’s charge is as big as 12/1 here. Hunters Call is rising 12 and off a career high mark, so doesn’t appeal at all.
2021 International Hurdle Tips & Shortlist
- Song For Someone *****
- Guard Your Dreams ****
- Wilde About Oscar ***