The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdle event on the racing calendar and the third leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling. Taking place as the main feature race of Champion Day at the Cheltenham Festival, this is definitely the highlight of the day.
With a purse of £450,000 up for the lucky winners, this race attracts the cream of the crop of hurdle racers. Horses face a course of 3,319 metres or just over two miles, with eight hurdles to be navigated.
The 2018 Champion Hurdle looks a belter with the likes of Buveur D’Air , Faugheen, Yorkhill, and Melon all likely to be involved.
Nicky Henderson’s French raider Buveur D’Air is the defending champion and the strong favourite for this year’s renewal.
The Champion Hurdle will begin at 3:20pm.
Cancelled in 1931 due to frost and in 1943 and 1944 due to the Second World War, the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham and has acted as a showcase for several big-name horses throughout history.
From 1947 until 1954 the race was dominated by just three horses: National Spirit took victory in 1947 and 1948, Hatton’s Grace in three consecutive years from 1949 to 1951, and Sir Ken scored another hat-trick from 1952 to 1954. All three horses have gone down in history as being among the greatest ever hurdlers.
Since that time, there have been three more horses who have managed to win the Champion Hurdle for three consecutive years: Persian War (1968–1970), See You Then (1985–1987) and Istabraq (1998–2000).
Champion Hurdle Race Records
Hatton’s Grace, Persian War, Sir Ken, See You Then and Istabraq share the top spot for horses with the most wins at three apiece.
The leading Champion Hurdle jockey is Tim Molony, who rode Hatton’s Grace to his third victory and was atop Sir Ken for all three wins, taking home the Champion Trophy in four consecutive years.
Trainers Nicky Henderson and Peter Easterby have each notched up five winning horses, as has owner J.P. McManus. Easterby trained Saucy Kit who won in 1967, Night Nurse who won in 1976 and 1977, and Sea Pigeon who won in 1980 and 1981. Henderson was responsible for 1985, 1986 and 1987 victories of See You Then and for both Punjabi and Binocular who won in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The three Champion-winning horses coming from the stables of J.P. McManus were Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000), Binocular (2010) and Jezki, who won the race in 2014.
The prestige of the Champion Hurdle is such that several winning horses have later had races named in their honour, including National Spirit, Persian War, Lanzarote, Hatton’s Grace and Istabraq.
The Champion Hurdle has always been for the quicker horses. The famous Hurricane Fly has won this race more than any other in the last 10 years. Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins have been four-time winners.
The last 10 winners are as follows:
- 2008: Katchit – Robert Thornton
- 2009: Punjabi – Barry Geraghty
- 2010: Binocular – AP McCoy
- 2011: Hurricane Fly – Ruby Walsh
- 2012: Rock On Ruby – Noel Fehily
- 2013: Hurricane Fly – Ruby Walsh
- 2014: Jezki – Barry Geraghty
- 2015: Faugheen – Ruby Walsh
- 2016: Annie Power – Ruby Walsh
- 2017: Buveur D’Air – Noel Fehily
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