The World Hurdle is the feature championship race on St. Patrick’s Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival. It was first run in 1912 as the Stayers Selling Hurdle, with the winning horse sold after the race for £50.
Until 1946 the race was dropped several times but since then has replaced the previous Spa Hurdle as part of the Cheltenham Festival. When Lloyd’s Bank began sponsoring the race in 1972 it was renamed the Stayer’s Hurdle and the modern title (Ladbrokes World Hurdle) came into effect in 2005 when Ladbrokes began sponsorship of the race. At various points it has also been sponsored by Waterford Crystal and Bonusprint.
Since 1993 the race has been held on the Festival Thursday, having been run on either Tuesday or Wednesday prior to this.
It is open to four-year-olds with a weight of 11st, and five-year-olds and over with a weight of 11st 10lb. Mares and fillies entered are granted the 7lb weight allowance.
The total prize purse stands at £275,000 for this Grade 1 National Hunt race.
For four consecutive years from 2009 until 2012, the event was taken by Ruby Walsh on Big Buck’s, trained by Paul Nicholls and from the stable of The Stewart Family. Big Buck’s ended his winning streak at the World Hurdle in 2013 when he came fourth and was retired from racing in 2014. Ruby Walsh has earned the title of leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival nine times since 2004.
Paul Nicholls came to Big Buck’s 2009 win riding high on the previous year’s Festival results, in which he was able to claim first, second and third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Denman, Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges.
Andy Stewart of the Stewart Family is the major investor in CHAPS Restaurant Barbados, the latest sponsor of the Novices’ Handicap Chase on Champion Day of the Festival.
The only horse to come close to Big Buck’s in this race has been Inglis Drever (trained by Howard Johnson), who won in 2005 with Graham Lee, 2007 with Paddy Brennan and 2008 with Denis O’Regan.
The World Hurdle is one of the feature events of the Cheltenham Festival, eagerly anticipated by spectators and participants alike. With a huge amount of prestige attached to the race, this one will be fiercely fought until someone is past the post.