Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdling prize of the season ran over two miles on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival in March.  It is the season target for the best hurdlers in Britain and Ireland. Ante-post odds are available all-year-round and it is one of the top Festival betting races, as well as one of the most eagerly anticipated of the festival for horse racing fans.

Champion Hurdle Runners

The Race

The race is run over 2 miles, at Cheltenham Racecourse with eight flights of hurdles jumped. It is run in early March on the first day of the national hunt Cheltenham Festival. The winner is generally considered to be the best hurdler of the year, with the race posing the perfect test of speed and accurate jumping for a horse and jockey.

Famous Champion Hurdle Winners & History

First run in 1927, notable early winners include Hatton’s Grace (1949-1951) and Sir Ken (1952-1954). Persian War (1968-1970) became the third horse to claim three successive victories, having won the Triumph Hurdle as a four-year-old.

The 1970’s and early eighties produced some of the most famous hurdlers in the history of National Hunt racing. Comedy of Errors won in 1973 and 1975 for legendary trainer Fred Rimell while Fred Winter was successful with Bula (1971, 1972) and Lanzarote (1974).

Peter Easterby saddled Night Nurse for back-to-back victories in 1976 and 1977. He also trained Sea Pigeon, twice runner-up behind Irish-trained Monksfield (1978 and 1979) before crowned the hurdles champion in 1980 and 1981.

Dawn Run was a popular winner in 1984 and would go on to become the first horse in history to win both the Champion and the Cheltenham Gold Cup when claiming the top chasing prize in 1986.

Dawn Run Raceehorse

Nicky Henderson’s See You Then (1985-1987) became the fourth horse to claim three Champion wins, a feat matched by Aidan O’Brien’s Istabraq (1998-2000). The latter was hot favourite for an unprecedented fourth success in 2001 but the meeting was abandoned because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

The success of Istabraq was the pre-curser to a remarkable run of success in the race for owner JP McManus. His famous green and gold silks would be carried to victory by Binocular (2010), Jezki (2014), Buveur d’air (2017, 2018), Espoir D’Allen (2019) and Epatante (2020). Other popular winners include in 2012 Rock on Ruby, whilst in 2016 Annie Power was a popular winner for the mares and jockey Ruby Walsh.

Key Champion Hurdle Trials

The previous year’s race is often a key guide to the Champion Hurdle betting. Between 2017 and 2018 Buveur D’air was the last horse to successfully defend his crown. Prior to that, you must go back to Hardy Eustace (2004-2005). Horses to be placed and come back to win the following season include Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010) and Hurricane Fly (2012).

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle have also produced plenty of future winners. Istabraq (1997) and Faugheen (2014) were among those to win the Ballymore before going on to win Champion while Hors La Loi III (1999) and Brave Inca (2004) won here after success in the Supreme. Winners of the Triumph Hurdle rarely go on to win, the last to do so being Katchit in 2008.

The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park has proved to be the best trial in recent seasons. Faugheen (2014), Buveur d’Air (2017) and Epatante (2019) all advertised their Cheltenham claims with victory in that race. Other significant trials include The International Hurdle at Cheltenham, Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock and the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Champion Hurdle Betting Trends

Favourites have a good record in recent years, winning six of the ten renewals between 2010 and 2020. Hurricane Fly was a successful favourite in 2011 but was beaten at odds-on when third to Rock On Ruby the following year. He reversed those places when starting 13-8 favourite in 2013.

Faugheen (4-5) and Annie Power (5-2) were also well-backed favourites for Willie Mullins when scoring in 2015 and 2016. Nicky Henderson’s Buveur DAir won as the 5-1 second favourite in 2017 and followed up at odds-on in 2018. His hat-trick bid ended with a crashing fall at the third flight in 2019 but the JP McManus colours continued their domination with 16-1 Espoir D’Allen.

That was the longest priced winner of the race since Punjabi won at 22-1 in 2009. Beech Road was the biggest priced winner in modern times, springing a 50-1 shock in 1989. For Auction at 40-1 (1982) and Hardy Eustace at 33-1 (2004) were other notable outsiders to win this race. Epatante (2-1 favourite) provided JP with his ninth suucess in 2020.

Champion Hurdle Stats

Horses aged 6 to 8 have the best record in this Grade 1 race. Sea Pigeon became the oldest winner in the race for 30 years when scoring at the age of eleven in 1981. Five-year-olds have a poor record with only Katchit (2008) and Espoir D’Allen (2019) winning from that age group since 1985.

Most Champion Hurdlers had either won or been placed in their last race before Cheltenham. Many of them had recorded at least one graded victory and raced within seven weeks of the Festival meeting. French-bred horses have won the last four renewals with Buveur DAir (2017, 2018), Espoir D’Allen (2019) and Epatante (2020).

Top Trainers and Jockeys

Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer in the history of the race with eight winners. Three of those came with the brilliant but fragile See You Then (1985-1987). His last three winners raced in the colours of JP McManus who has now won the race a record nine times.

Willie Mullins has trained the winner on this prestigious Grade 1 on four occasions; Hurricane Fly (2011 and 2013), Faugheen (2015) and AnniePower (2016). All four started well-backed favourites. The recently-retired Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty enjoyed four victories apiece, equalling the record set by Tim Molony. He rode four consecutive winners of the race with Hatton’s Grace (1951) and Sir Ken (1952-1954).

Nicky Henderson Champion Hurdle Trainer

Betting on the Unibet Champion Hurdle

The Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle is one of the biggest Grade 1 ante-post betting races of the National Hunt season. Betting on the race for the following year opens as soon as they pass the post. The race usually features a clash between established contenders and rising stars from last season’s novice ranks.

Bookmakers have started offering “non-runner – no bet” on the race during the run up to the Cheltenham Festival in recent years. There have also been some very generous offers for new customers including 40-1 (to a limited stake) on 2020 winner Epatante. That race attracted the largest field since 2009 and most bookmakers offered enhanced place terms down to fourth place.

Summary

A superb race and one of the highlights of the entire year, The Grade 1 Champion Hurdle ran over 2 miles on Cheltenham Old Course is always a superb race. To win the champion hurdle takes speed, accurate jumping, class and guts. It has been won over the years by many greats and personal favourites include Alderbrook, Dawn Run and Istabaaq. As a horse racing spectacle, it is difficult to beat. Jockeys who have enjoyed notable success over the years include Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh, whilst as trainers, Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins are names to watch. A race to enjoy and saviour with or without a bet.

All Horse Racing Betting Events

Popular Questions

🏇 Who won the 2020 Champion Hurdle?

It was won by the mare Epatante trained by the brilliant N.Henderson and ridden by B.Geraghty.

🏇 What day is the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham?

It is always run on the opening day of the Festival which is the Tuesday.