Top Champion Hurdle Winners
The Champion Hurdle is the highlight of the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
There have been five three-time winners of the race, the most recent being Istabraq between 1998 and 2000.
The race enjoyed a golden age through the 1970s and 80s with the likes of Night Nurse, Sea Pigeon and Monksfield regularly clashing.
We have picked out our top ten Champion Hurdle winners, based on a combination of class and memorable races.
Here are the top 10 Champion Hurdlers:
Persian War became the third triple Champion Hurdle winner after Hatton’s Grace and Sir Ken.
His hat-trick of victories came from 1968 to 1970.
He had won the Triumph Hurdle as a juvenile and was described as “the ultimate champion” by trainer Colin Davies.
He also won the valuable Schweppes Gold Trophy in 1968, setting a weight-carrying record of 11st 13lbs.
His bid for a fourth Champion Hurdle ended in defeat by the brilliant Bula in 1971.
Night Nurse was one of the most versatile horses of the 1970s, a brilliant Champion Hurdler and good enough to compete with the Gold Cup horses over fences.
He was trained by Peter Easterby who also had Sea Pigeon in his care.
He won two Champion Hurdles in 1976 and 1977.
The first of those victories came in a remarkable sequence of 10 races undefeated but his second win was heralded as one of the greatest Champion Hurdles ever run. He beat Monksfield with stable companion Sea Pigeon back in fourth place.
Monksfield was unusual in that he raced over hurdles as an entire.
He was a terrier-like rival to Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon, dead-heating with Night Nurse in the Aintree Hurdle in 1977.
He won the Champion Hurdle in 1978 and 1979 but Sea Pigeon reversed the form to win the 1980 race.
He had been purchased for only 740 guineas as a yearling by Irish trainer Des McDonogh and would eventually be retired to stud.
Sea Pigeon was one of the most popular hurdlers of all time, winning the Champion Hurdle in 1980 and 1981.
The second of those victories was achieved at the age of eleven, the oldest winner of the Champion Hurdle since Hatton’s Grace completed his hat-trick in 1951.
Sea Pigeon, like his stable companion Night Nurse, was very versatile. He won the Chester Cup and the Ebor Handicap on the flat and even finished seventh in the 1973 Epsom Derby.
His second victory is remembered for the cool ride of jockey John Francome, barely moving a muscle as he loomed up to the leaders before easing clear.
See You Then
See You Then was beaten favourite in the Triumph Hurdle but went on to establish himself as one of the best hurdlers of all time with three Champion Hurdle victories from 1985 to 1987.
He was not the easiest horse to train and Nicky Henderson often had a struggle to get him fit for the big race each season.
At his peak, he had an amazing cruising speed and the ability to quicken decisively after the last.
Morley Street was another Champion Hurdler who was able to hold his own on the flat.
He was only beaten a short-head in the 1991 Doncaster Cup but he was a top-class hurdler.
He went to America where he won the Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase in 1990 and 1991.
He won the Champion Hurdle in 1991 for Toby Balding and Jimmy Frost and was even more effective over two and a half miles.
He made the Aintree Hurdle his own with four consecutive victories from 1990 to 1993.
Istabraq was trained by Aidan O’Brien to win three Champion Hurdles from 1998 to 2000.
He was denied a possible record fourth victory when the Cheltenham Festival was cancelled due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
He was ridden by Charlie Swan and would stalk the leaders before quickening away on the flat.
He won 23 of his 29 races over hurdles during a glittering career, claiming the Irish Champion Hurdle four times.
Hurricane Fly was a prolific hurdler trained by Willie Mullins.
He won the Irish Champion for a record five consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2015.
His Champion Hurdle victories came in 2011 and 2013, ridden by Ruby Walsh on both occasions.
He was the first horse to regain the Champion Hurdle for 38 years.
He was incredibly consistent, winning 24 of his 32 races over hurdles.
He racked up a record 22 Grade 1 victories before being retired to the paddocks at the Irish National Stud where he remains a star attraction.
2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen was a brilliant performer but was plagued with injury later in his career.
He was unbeaten as a novice and was dubbed “The Machine”, a reputation he justified the following season when sweeping all before him.
After his victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2016 he was rated the best two-mile hurdler of the 21st century.
His 15 lengths winning margin in the Irish Champion Hurdle was the widest in history.
He did win the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown in 2018 and was a Grade 1 winner in novice chases.
He was retired in 2021 to join Hurricane Fly at the Irish National Stud.
Honeysuckle is a remarkable mare, trained by Henry De Bromhead and ridden by Rachael Blackmore.
She won the 2021 Champion Hurdle in brilliant style and extended her unbeaten run to 14 races when winning the Irish Champion Hurdle for a third successive season in 2023.
She has also won three Hatton’s Grace Hurdles, the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle.
She is odds-on favourite to become the first mare in history to win the Champion Hurdle twice.
Is Honeysuckle Henry De Bromheads Cheltenham Runners best chance of a winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Summary of The Best Champion Hurdlers
As you can see there are many great Champion Hurdlers or past and more recent times.
It is a thrilling race that produces memorable performances and horses that live long in the memory.
If you think there’s another top Champion Hurdler who should be added, drop us a message and we will get them added.
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