Challow Novices’ Hurdle

James Dooley avatar

Written By:


We take a look at the Challow Novices’ Hurdle, a Grade 1 race over two miles and four and a half furlongs at Newbury, typically held in late December or early January.

The race is a crucial stepping stone for hopefuls eyeing the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

This race has seen some remarkable winners, including the likes of Bonanza Boy (1986-1987), Bindaree (1999-2000), Denman (2005-2006), and Champ (2018-2019).

Join us as we unravel the story behind the Challow Novices’ Hurdle, exploring its significance, the road it paves for future champions, and the echoes of past victories that reverberate through the Newbury racecourse. This is your guide to a race that not only showcases the present talent but also sets the stage for the stars of tomorrow.


Challow Novices’ Hurdle

Race Overview – Challow Novices Hurdle

Horses four years old and older may compete in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle, a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race.

Ten hurdles must be cleared during the race, which is raced at Newbury over a distance of approximately 2 miles and 412 furlongs (2 miles 4 furlongs and 118 yards, or 4,131 metres).

Famous Challow Novices’ Hurdle Winners

The Challow Hurdle was originally restricted to juveniles over two miles. It was opened up to older horses in 1981-82 with the distance extended and soon became as a significant trial for Cheltenham.

In 1986-87 the race was won by Bonanza Boy, then trained by Peter Hobbs. Despite his small stature, he came into his own over fences, winning the Welsh Grand National twice for Martin Pipe and Peter Scudamore. He won off a lightweight in 1988 and followed up with 11st 11lb the following year.

Other high-class Challow winners in the eighties and nineties include Forest Sun (1989-90) and Large Action (1993-94).

In 1999-2000 the race was won by Bindaree, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Carl Llewellyn. He went on to win the Aintree Grand National in 2002 when ridden by Jim Culloty.

In 2005-06 the Challow Novices’ Hurdle was won by the Paul Nicholls-trained Denman. The race was staged at Cheltenham that season after Newbury had been abandoned Denman strode to an impressive 21 lengths victory.

Although he finished runner-up in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle he would become a Cheltenham legend over fences. He won the Sun Alliance Novices’ Chase in 2007 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2008, famously defeating stable companion Kauto Star. Arguably his greatest performances came at Newbury where he won two Hennessy Gold Cups.

The son of Presenting was surprisingly beaten over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival but was destined to become a star over fences. He won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2008 when beating stable companion Kauto Star. He also finished runner-up in the Gold Cup on three occasions and won the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009.

Reve De Sivola (2009-2010) became one of the leading staying hurdlers in the country, winning the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot for three successive seasons from 2012 to 2014. Diamond Harry (2008-2009) and Taquin Du Seuil (2012-2013) were other high-class winners.

The high standard of winners have been maintained in recent years with Champ (2018-19), Thyme Hill (2019-20) and Bravemansgame (2020-21) all going on to win further Grade 1 races.

Key Challow Novices’ Hurdle Trials

The Hyde Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham November meeting has been a good guide for this race. Three of the last twelve winners ran in that race with Fingal Bay (2011) and Parlour Games (2014) both having won at Cheltenham. Brewster (2004) and Diamond Harry (2008) also won both races.

The other key trial for the Challow is the Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park. Three recent winners of that event came here and followed up successfully; Fingal Bay (2011), Taquin Du Seuil (2012) and Messire Des Obeaux (2016).

The obvious Cheltenham target for winners of this race is the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Reve De Sivola (2009), Parlour Games (2014) and Champ (2018) all finished runner-up in that race.

Forest Sun (1989) successfully dropped back to two miles to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Four of the last twelve winners were stepped up to three miles for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle but all were beaten.

Horses aged five and six have won all but one of the last twelve renewals. The only exception was the four-year-old Messire Des Obeaux in 2016-17.

Slalom (1987-1988), Lord Relic (1992-1993) and Brewster (2004-2005) all won the race at the age of seven.

Seven favourites and one joint-favourite have won in the last twelve seasons.

There were only two winners from outside the first two in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle betting during that period; Captain Cutter (2013) at 8-1 and Parlour Games (2014) at 6-1.

Fingal Bay (2011) and Barters Hill (2015) were heavily-backed odds-on favourites.

Taquin Du Seuil (2012), Poetic Rhythm (2017), Champ (2018), Thyme Hill (2019) and Stage Star (2021) also started market leaders and Bravemansgame (2020) was joint-favourite.

All but one of the last twelve winners had won last time out and all of them had recorded at least one win over hurdles. Seven of those had already won a Grade 2 race and an official rating of 139 or higher is usually required to win this race.

Champ (150) and Fingal Bay (149) were the highest-rated winners in recent seasons.

Challow Novices’ Hurdle – Top Trainers and Jockeys

Jonjo O’Neill and Paul Nicholls share the honour of leading trainer in this race with four winners apiece. O’Neill’s winners were Coolnagorna (2002), Wichita Lineman (2006), Backspin (2010) and Taquin Du Seuil (2012).

Paul Nicholls won it with Cornish Rebel (2003) and Denman (2005-2006) but had to wait until Bravemansgame (2020) and Stage Star (2021) for his next Challow winners.

Nicky Henderson won it for the first time in 2013 with Captain Cutter and again in 2018 with Champ.

Tony McCoy is the leading jockey in the history of the race with six winners; Classified (2001), Coolnagorna (2002), Wichita Lineman (2006), Backspin (2010), Taquin Du Seuil (2012) and Captain Cutter (2013).

Popular Questions

When is the Challow Novices’ Hurdle?

The Challow Novices’ Hurdle takes place on Saturday 31st December 2024 at 3:00 pm.

The 15:00 race is held at Newbury Racecourse.

What are important facts about Challow Novices’ Hurdle?

Here are some important facts about Challow Novices’ Hurdle:

  • The Challow Novices’ Hurdle is run at Newbury Racecourse, Great Britain
  • The Challow Novices’ Hurdle is for horses aged 4 and older
  • The Challow Novices’ Hurdle is a National Hunt hurdle race in Great Britain
  • The Challow Novices’ Hurdle distance is 2 miles and 4½ furlongs

Summary of the Challow Novices Hurdle

Thank you for reading our Challow Novices’ Hurdle guide.

We have looked at previous winners of the Challow novice hurdle, facts and figures, betting and more so you can make an informed decision if placing a bet or just enjoying the race.

There are more races in December that you might enjoy, so make sure you check them out.

Check out our Newbury tips page if you enjoy watching races at Newbury Racecourse.

Christmas Holiday Racing Information Articles