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.
- Buveur d’Air to win at 9/4 with Ladbrokes OR 50/1 WITH PADDY POWER (see below)
- Verdana Blue each way at 22/1 with Betfred
Champion Hurdle Betting Offers and Free Bets
- PADDY POWER – 50/1 Buveur Dair to win Champion Hurdle – New Customers can get Buveur Dair at an enhanced 50/1 to win Champion Hurdle. Max Stake £1. Winnings paid in free bets, valid for 7 days, only deposits with cards/Paypal count. Exchange and multiple bets excluded. T&C’s Apply. 18+|Gamble Aware. Get more info on the 50/1 Buveur d’Air Offer!
- Other racing free bets, enhanced odds and other offers for this race will be listed below but check out the latest Cheltenham Festival Betting Offers for the best promos for the Festival as a whole.
Champion Hurdle Tips and 2019 Race Preview
As the championship race of the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, the Champion Hurdle is always an exciting contest. It’s been ramped up a notch this season though with nobody quite sure which of the three horses at the top of the betting is going to get the job done.
Will it be Buveur d’Air as he looks for a third straight Champion Hurdle? Will Apple’s Jade continue her amazing form this season with another big win? Or will Laurina the six-year-old Laurina power her way to victory?
Mares Provide the Danger to Buveur d’Air
When you look at the seasonal form of the three leaders in the betting it is very easy to make a strong case for Apple’s Jade. Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old has really found her best stuff since making all at Navan in November. Better was to come with a rout of Supasundae over 2m4f, an even bigger margin of victory over 3m in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle and a 16 length win back at 2m in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
It was that front running performance which prompted connections to decide on the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham where she will get a 7 lb allowance from Buveur d’Air. She will be running off the same mark as Laurina though which may prove problematic. Willie Mullins’ six-year-old has only made two starts this season but has shown enough to suggest she has the makings of an excellent performer at this level.
Can You Ignore the Two Time Winner at 9/4?
The big question about Laurina is her experience relative to her opponents. The doubts surrounding Apple’s Jade are all about her poor record at Cheltenham. With those concerns you have to think that Buveur d’Air represents excellent value at 9/4 with Ladbrokes.
Nicky Henderson’s superstar started to drift in the betting for the Champion Hurdle when his chances of winning the Triple Crown of Hurdling were ended when Verdana Blue beat him in the Christmas Hurdle. If you look at Buveur d’Air’s performance in the same race last year it was far from convincing so there appears to be something about Kempton at that time of year that doesn’t suit him.
He was back to his old self next time out in what has become his traditional warm up race for the Champion Hurdle at Sandown. Clearly, there’s next to nothing to learn from that form but there’s huge amount to learn from Buveur d’Air’s past at Cheltenham. He is a hurdler of the very top class and can win this biggest hurdle of all once again.
Verdana Blue Can Challenge
It is going to be very hard for any other horse in the field to claim a place given the strength of the big three. Verdana Blue is one who has the experience and quality to spring something of a surprise though at 22/1 with Betfred.
Another who gets the mares’ allowance, Verdana Blue will have little problem bringing her best to the Cheltenham Festival and although she’ll likely be chasing the big thee home she has the quality to take advantage of any mistakes.
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 Trends – 2019 Could See Hat-trick Hero
Winning the Champion Hurdle more than once is the mark of an excellent hurdler. Completing a hat-trick is an achievement reserved only for the very best including Hatton’s Grace, Persian War and Istabraq.
Buveur d’Air is the most recent horse to attempt the hat-trick in 2019 and it was clear from his career stats and achievements going into that race that he is very much amongst the elite of hurdlers.
In 2018, Nicky Henderson’s charge completed the Triple Crown of Hurdling so had all the required experience and class. His position as the favourite is a little more complicated as the majority of winners come from the top three in the betting but favourites have only obliged around 50% of the time in recent years.
Long Term Trends Suggest Cheltenham Experience Key
Away from the 2019 race there are several long term trends which stand the test of time. Horses aged between six and eight win the vast majority of Champion Hurdles because they have the right combination of pace and jumping experience.
Digging into that experience and a prior run at Cheltenham is almost a necessity whilst most horses had five or more hurdle wins at or around 2m. Of those wins, success at Grade 1 level is preferable but at least trying to win at the top level is a must. The importance of big wins is further seen by the fact that the vast majority of recent winners had an official rating of 160 or higher.
It’s not just the horses who need a certain amount of experience. Booking a jockey with plenty of experience of the Cheltenham Festival and of the individual horse is a major plus point. Look for jockeys who have partnered with their horse at least three times.
Similarly, certain trainers have an especially good record. Nicky Henderson, Jessica Harrington and Paul Nicholls are rarities in that bets on their entries to level stakes would have provided a profit.
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.