A Brief History of The Cheltenham Champion Hurdle
In 1927, the Champion Hurdle was introduced to the Cheltenham Festival and the first horse to win was called Blaris. During the 1930s and 40s some Cheltenham Festival meetings were cancelled due to inclement weather and World War II. Between 1947 and 1955 there were just three winners with famous horses winning multiple times and dominating the entries. At the same time, the popularity of the festival increased as 30,000 spectators filled Prestbury Park. During this period, National Spirit became the second horse to retain the Champion Hurdle. Shortly thereafter, Hatton’s Grace became the first horse to win the race three times on the bounce.
Sir Ken was the next horse to achieve a hat-trick shortly after Hatton’s Grace. During this run of domination, Sir Ken recorded the shortest price ever of 2/5 to run out as a winner in the Champion Hurdle.
1977’s race saw several former winners entered in what was described as the most competitive line up to start a Champion Hurdle, ultimately Night Nurse won.
Dawn Run was a mare, who won both the Champion Hurdle in 1984 and then the Gold Cup in 1986, both feature races of the Cheltenham Festival and the only horse to achieve this. The most recent mare to win the Champion Hurdle was Annie Power in 2016.
In 2001 foot and mouth disease caused the Cheltenham Festival to be cancelled when Istabraq was favourite to win a record fourth time and on successive meetings. The following year Istabraq was pulled up and went into retirement.
Most Successful Champion Hurdle Horses
- Hatton’s Grace – A three-time winner 1949/50/51
- Sir Ken - A three-time winner 1952/53/54
- Persian War – A three-time winner 1968/69/70
- See You Then – A three-time winner 1985/86/87 - 1966
- Istabraq – A three-time winner between 1998/99 and 2000
Most Successful Champion Hurdle Jockeys
- Tim Maloney – A four-time winner riding Hatton’s Grace in 1951 and Sir Ken in 1952/53/54
- Ruby Walsh – A four-time winner in 2000 and 2011 on Hurricane Fly, Faugheen in 2015 and Annie Power in 2016
- Barry Geraghty – A four-time winner on Punjabi in 2009, Jezki in 2014, Buveur D’Air in 2019 and Epatante in 2020
Most Successful Champion Hurdle Trainers
- Nicky Henderson – An eight-time winner with See You Then (1985/86/87), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010), Buveur D’Air (2017/18) and Epetante (2020)
- Peter Easterby – A five-time winner with Saucy Kit (1967), Night Nurse (1976/77), Sea Pigeon (1980/81)
- Willie Mullins – A four-time winner with Hurricane Fly (2011/13), Faugheen (2015), Annie Power (2016)
The Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 2022
The Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Trophy is the main featured race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival. Runners and riders will be under orders at 15:30 GMT on Tuesday 15th March 2022. Several races over the National Hunt season calendar lead to this showpiece race including the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock Park and even the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
The Champion Hurdle is a grade one race over two miles and half a furlong which sees the horses have to navigate eight relatively small obstacles on route to the finishing post. The race is not necessarily about stamina but more about consistency and speed along the ground and when jumping the fences. Open to horses of four years of age and above, there has been many famous winners and this year a prize pot of approximately £450,000 is available with £250,000 being awarded to first place. With the excitement increasing as the Cheltenham Festival draws ever nearer, let’s take a look at some of the runners that are in with a chance of success.
Featured Runners at the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 2022
The winner of the Champion Hurdle in 2021, can Honeysuckle make the grade and win back-to-back titles? It appears most pointers are that way inclined, as the 8-year-old mare trained by Henry De Bromhead remains unbeaten after 14 career starts. With all mares in the Champion Hurdle continuing to have a seven-pound weight advantage, Honeysuckle in early February ran out as winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown by six and a half lengths ahead of Zanahiyr. Most likely to be mounted by Rachael Blackmore on race day, it is difficult to look beyond Honeysuckle as a potential winner. In her last five starts only one other horse apart from Zanahiyr has been within six and a half lengths at the finishing post. Honeysuckle may start as the shortest priced ante-post favourite.
After eight career starts, Appreciate It has never been out of the placings winning six of these races. An eight-year-old bay gelding trained by Willie Mullins, Appreciate It has yet to run during this National Hunt season. With no form to go by and such a long absence from competitive racing, it will be interesting to see how this horse performs on 15 March. That is not to say Appreciate It is not suited to Prestbury Park, as his last outing was a thumping 24 length victory in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival last year.
Trained by Barry Geraghty, Epatante has the pedigree to win the Champion Hurdle as this 8-year-old bay mare did so in 2020, only to finish third in 2021. Epatante has shown good form and is always in the running winning 8 of her 12 career outings. Her last two pre-new year races involved a winning dead heat with Not So Sleepy in November at Newcastle. Epatante went one better in December at the Kempton Christmas Hurdle and held on comfortably by two and a quarter-lengths from Glory and Fortune in a small field of five horses.
Last year at Cheltenham, Zanahiyr raced in the Grade one Triumph Hurdle coming home in fourth place by four and a half lengths from the winner Quilixios and one and a quarter length behind third placed Adagio. This season’s form has remained impressive with one win and three second placed finishes over four outings. Zanahiyr can hold his head high as those second placed finishes were to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle and Sharjah. A five-year-old Irish chestnut gelding trained by Gordon Elliott, Zanahiyr may well be able to put on a strong run and will be one to look out for with a little more age and experience.
Another five-year-old bay gelding trained by Gordon Elliott. Teahupoo is a young horse with 5 wins from 6 races and showing lots of promise backed up by a solid season of three wins over 2 miles at Naas, Limerick and Gowan Park. Teahupoo came in ahead of Quilixious at Naas and Limerick by twelve lengths and half a length respectively. Another young horse with a promising future.
Having a busy National Hunt season, Tommy’s Oscar has come into good form winning the last of his four races, most of which were by five lengths or more. The horse is trained by Ann Hamilton and is an Irish 7-year-old bay gelding that could be worth considering.
Another young up and coming five-year-old bay filly trained by Henry De Bromford. Quilixious is not unaccustomed to Cheltenham having won the Grade one JCB Triumph Hurdle in 2021 running ahead of the likes of Adagio and Zanahiyr. During this national hunt season Quilixious has not really pushed on massively but has still finished second and in her last outing third, some 22 lengths behind Teahupoo. Maybe being back at Cheltenham will put that extra stride into Quixilious step.
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