Champion Hurdle Preview: Tips, Betting Offers and Odds, Cheltenham, 3.30, 12 March 2019
The Champion Hurdle is simply the most prestigious hurdle race in National Hunt racing. It’s a Grade 1 which makes up the first leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling and is run over just over two miles.
Over the years the very best hurdlers around have claimed this crown and the return of Faugheen to the race is a wonderful storyline. With plenty of other potential challengers to last year’s winner, Buveur D’Air, this year’s Champion Hurdle is shaping up very nicely indeed.
Champion Hurdle Betting Tips
Odds correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.
Champion Hurdle Betting Offers and Free Bets
Champion Hurdle Tips and 2019 Race Preview
Buveur D’Air odds lengthen after Boxing Day defeat
There’s little doubt that, if present, Buveur D’Air will be the favourite to defend his Champion Hurdle crown but he may do so at a longer price this time around. The eight-year-old was formerly odds-on in the ante post market but jumped to 6/4 (Betfair) after his surprise defeat in the Christmas Hurdle. Nicky Henderson’s horse only had four others to beat at Kempton but lost out by a short head to stablemate Verdana Blue. Although he recovered well from crashing into the third from last hurdle, this mistake ultimately cost him in the end.
Buveur D’Air’s poor jump cannot fully explain his defeat however. The incident didn’t seem to slow him down all that much as he recovered exceptionally well. Henderson had no excuses for the display and it seems that his prized hurdler is now a little more vulnerable than before. Age is not on his side either with only two of the last twelve Champion Hurdle winners aged eight or above.
Laurina looking to build on last year’s success
Buveur D’Air’s winning streak may have come to an end but Laurina kept hers alive on her long awaited season return. Having won four successive hurdles races last season, including three at Graded standard, expectations are high for the six-year-old mare. She wasn’t challenged on her delayed comeback in January, able to canter to a win in a two horse race at Sandown. Unable to get a real sense of her ability that day, she is in need of a more challenging test before the festival gets underway to ensure she is at full sharpness. Should she pass it then odds of 4/1 (Ladbrokes) on her claiming another win at Cheltenham will seem like a steal.
Defeated Melon may be handed a second try
Melon was the second favourite during last year’s Champion Hurdle but his price of 7/1 was a long way behind that of Buveur D’Air. The expectation was that the favourite would win without too many issues but Melon pushed him all the way during a thrilling battle. Willie Mullins’ horse had every chance as they went down the home stretch but wound up just a neck’s length from a lucrative victory. Such a fine performance against a supreme horse may encourage Mullins to give Melon another crack in this race and his long odds makes him an attractive each way option (10/1, Coral).
Another horse potentially facing a Buveur D’Air rematch is Verdana Blue. Having beaten her stablemate on Boxing Day, you can’t say that 12/1 with BetVictor is an unattractive price for mare. There’s a decent chance Henderson may prefer to run her in the Mares’ Hurdle however so she’s perhaps best avoided as an ante-post option.
Champion Hurdle Previous Winners
- 2018 – Buveur d’Air – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2017 – Buveur d’Air – jockey Noel Fahily, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2016 – Annie Power – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2015 – Faugheen – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2014 – Jezki – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Jessica Harrington
- 2013 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2012 – Rock On Ruby – jockey Noel Fehily, trainer Paul Nicholls
- 2011 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2010 – Binocular – jockey Tony McCoy, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2009 – Punjabi – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2008 – Katchit – jockey Robert Thornton, trainer Alan King
- 2007 – Sublimity – jockey Philip Carberry, trainer John Carr
- 2006 – Brave Inca – jockey Tony McCoy, trainer Colm Murphy
Champion Hurdle History
Once a horse has established they are in possession of the requisite class, speed and slick hurdling ability to land this prize, it is not unusual for them to return to take the crown once again.
There have been numerous horses to have won this race on more than one occasion and five have managed to triumph three years in succession. The first to accomplish this was Hatton’s Grace for Vincent O’Brien (1949-51). It didn’t take long for this feat to be repeated however as Sir Ken immediately rattled off three consecutive victories from 1952 to 1954. Persian War narrowly missed out on becoming the first to win it four years in a row when finishing second to Bula in 1971. See You Then achieved his hat-trick for Nicky Henderson between 1985 and 1987 in the capable hands of Steve Smith Eccles.
1998-2000 marked the golden years for one of the greatest hurdlers to ever take to the track. Aidan O’Brien’s Istabraq won just about every major hurdle going during these years, including three wins in this race. The JP McManus gelding was heavily favoured to make it four in a row in 2001 but was denied by the foot and mouth crisis, which caused the meeting to be abandoned.
However there is one individual who has made it to the winners enclosure in four concurrent years, jockey Tom Moloney. Having partnered Hatton’s Grace for the last of his victories the Irishman was aboard Sir Ken for all three of his Cheltenham successes.
Only two horses have succeeded in regaining their crown having lost it. Namely, Comedy Of Errors 1973 and 1975 and the horse to have won more Grade 1’s than any other, Hurricane Fly (2011 and 2013).
Nicky Henderson leads the way amongst the training ranks with seven wins to his name. Henderson followed up See You Then’s hat-trick with wins for Punjabi (2009) and Binocular (2010) before the double from Buveur d’Air in 2016 and 2017. Tim Easterby is next in line with five wins having been aided by dual wins for both Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon
Only three mares have taken this prize over the years: African Sister (1939), Flakey Dove (1994) and best of the lot, the remarkable Dawn Run in 1984 who went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1986.
The brilliant Fred Winter now has a race at the Festival named in his honour and certainly enjoyed a particular affinity with this contest. He topped his record of three wins as a jockey by sending out the winner on four occasions as a trainer.
Hurdle races at around this distance are always likely to be the playground for the younger speedier runners and that certainly seems to be the case here. The winner has been aged seven or younger over 75% of the time. That’s not to say a good old one can’t still come out on top. Hatton’s Grace and Sea Pigeon ably demonstrated this point when seeing off all comers at the age of 11.
When looking for the winner of this race it can pay to let the market guide you. The favourite or joint favourite has taken the honours an above average 34 times in the first 85 editions. The biggest priced winners were Kirriemuir in 1965 and Beech Road in 1989, both at the rewarding odds of 50/1.