Irish Champion Hurdle Preview: Tips, Betting Offers and Odds, Leopardstown, 3rd February 2018
The Irish Champion Hurdle is one of the first major races in the calendar year for jumps fans. Here we provide our betting tips for the race and highlight some of the best odds and offers available.
The two mile trip of this Irish equivalent to the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle sees the runners tackle just over a circuit of Leopardstown’s flat galloping track. Top class hurdlers have been tackling the eight hurdles of this contest since the inaugural running back in 1950.
Irish Champion Hurdle Betting Tips
Irish Champion Hurdle Betting Offers
- Coral – Bet £5, Get £20 in Free Bets – plus get money back as a free bet of up to £25 if your horse falls (in selected Jumps races)
- Ladbrokes – £50 Free Bet – plus Best Odds Guaranteed Plus giving you extra value on your early bets!
Remember to keep an eye on our Cheltenham Festival Betting Offers page as it won’t be long before the bookies start rolling out their top offers for it!
Irish Champion Hurdle Tips and Preview
Irish racing fans have long considered the Irish Champion Hurdle on a par with its equivalent at the Cheltenham Festival. The 2018 renewal could be when that view becomes much more widely held thanks to the new Dublin Racing Festival.
Leopardstown plays host to the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival this weekend of which the two mile Irish Champion Hurdle is just one of several Grade 1s for punters to get their teeth stuck into.
Faugheen Weakening in the Market
There are a plethora of big stories ahead of the weekend at Leopardstown but it’s Faugheen who most racing fans are talking about. The Machine finally made his long awaited return to the track with a commanding win at Punchestown in November. Unfortunately, that performance only silenced the doubters for a little over a month as Willie Mullins’ charge was pulled up next time out at Leopardstown.
Faugheen fans will be willing to forgive him that performance and get stuck into the 11/8 that Betfred are quoting about his chances on Saturday. That does look a risky proposition though given how poor he was last time out. There are still question marks about whether Mullins will even risk Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle and as his price drifts, it may be time to look for other options.
Melon More Than Capable of Deputising for Mullins
Willie Mullins has a wonderful recent record in the Irish Champion Hurdle thanks to Faugheen and five time winner, Hurricane Fly. If Faugheen doesn’t do the business on Saturday, there’s every chance Mullins will still train the winner in the shape of Melon.
The six-year-old is still relatively lightly raced under rules but he’s done enough in his five performances to date to suggest that he is hurdler of the highest calibre. Melon kicked off the season with a win in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle at Down Royal before finding two experience horses too good for him in the International Hurdle.
Melon will only improve with every run and Mullins is still learning about the best way to approach him tactically. If it all comes to a head on Saturday, Melon will represent very good value at 9/4 with Bet365.
Each Way Plays a Solid Approach at Leopardstown
Favourite backers have had a lot to thank the Irish Champion Hurdle for over the years. You have to go back to Brave Inca in 2009 for the last time that the favourite failed to win but each way punters have also had some nice returns in that time.
Those who held ante post positions on Samcro for the Irish Champion Hurdle were disappointed to hear Gordon Elliot confirm he’s taking a different route at Leopardstown. That decision does, however, open the door for Supasundae, a 20/1 shot with Coral.
Jessica Harrington’s eight-year-old has performed well against some of the best hurdlers around this season and Apple’s Jade was all that stood in between him and victory in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. He returned nicely for each way punters at 7/1 in December and can secure an even nicer return back at Leopardstown on Saturday.
Irish Champion Hurdle Previous Winners
- 2017 – Petit Mouchoir – jockey David Mullins, trainer Henry de Bromhead
- 2016 – Faugheen – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2015 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2014 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2013 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2012 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2011 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Paul Townend, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2010 – Solwhit – jockey Davy Russell, trainer Charles Byrnes
- 2009 – Brave Inca – jockey Ruby Walsh , trainer Colm Murphy
- 2008 – Sizing Europe – jockey Andrew McNamara, trainer Henry de Bromhead
- 2007 – Hardy Eustace – jockey Conor O’Dwyer, trainer Dessie Hughes
- 2006 – Brave Inca – jockey Tony McCoy, trainer Colm Murphy
Irish Champion Hurdle History
A Grade One contest over a flying two miles, it should perhaps come as little surprise that it is the more fleet of foot younger horse who has held the edge over the years. Any six year old lining up is worthy of close inspection as they have comfortably the best record here. That said there have been two winners as young as four, whilst the ripe old age of eleven proved no barrier to success for Brave Inca or Hurricane Fly.
Hurricane Fly is worthy of a special mention here. This race has not yet been renamed in honour of the popular chestnut, however such an accolade would be fitting given the dominance of the Willie Mullins star in this contest. Five consecutive victories here, between the years of 2011-2015, feature amongst the World Record 22 Grade One wins achieved by one of the greatest two mile hurdlers of all time. The last of these top level triumphs came in this very contest, before the son of Montjeu was granted a well-earned retirement in August of 2015.
Hurricane Fly’s five wins put him out in front as the most successful horse in the races history. Not far behind with four successes is another of Irelands most renowned hurdlers; Istabraq. In the famous green and gold silks of J P McManus, this gelding was simply untouchable for Aidan O’Brien at his peak. This horse was all class and also racked up three Champion Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival in his period of dominance between 1998 and 2001.
It is Istabraq who paved the way for his rider Charlie Swan to become the leading jockey in the history of the race. Wins aboard Nordic Surprise and Like-A-Butterfly allayed to Istabraq’s four victories put the boy from Tipperary out in front on six. Closing in fast on five wins is Ruby Walsh. With the pick of the Willie Mullins battalion it could merely be a matter of time before Ruby is out in front on his own. It is Mullins who leads the way amongst the trainers here, thanks to the five wins of Hurricane Fly.
This is one prize the Irish like to keep on home soil. Since the inaugural running of the race, won by the great Vincent O’Brien, with three time Champion Hurdler Hatton’s Grace, our friends from the Emerald Isle have maintained a fierce grip on the trophy. A grip which has very rarely been loosened. Indeed it took until 1979 before Fred Rimmell recorded the first British success with Connaught Ranger. The 1990 spoils went to Britain again with Barry Hills and Nomadic Way and Frenchman Thierry Doumen wrested the prize away for France with Foreman in 2004, but in the vast majority of cases it is the Irish eyes that are smiling at Leopardstown in January.