The beginning of April each year sees Aintree play host to its famous three-day Grand National meeting. One of the undoubted highlights of the opening day is the highly-coveted Aintree Hurdle. Here we take a look at the best odds and offers and provide our betting tips for the race.
This 2m4f Grade 1 Hurdle event was first run as part of the Aintree Grand National meeting in 1976. Open to runners aged four and older, the contest features 11 flights of hurdles and offers £140,000 to the winner.
2019 Tips and Preview
The Grand National Festival at Aintree gets off to a cracking start on Thursday with a host of Grade 1 races. The Aintree Hurdle is, for many racing fans, the pick of the bunch, especially given the horses set to line up. Buveur d’Air is the clear favourite with the bookies. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old heads to Aintree on the back of a major disappointment when he fell in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival though and will need to rediscover his best form if he is to see off the challenge of the likes of Melon, Faugheen and Supasundae.
No Room For Mistake but Buveur Can Bounce Back
Buveur d’Air has amassed many fans over the last few years thanks to his completion of the Triple Crown of Hurdling in 2018. Those fans supported him in the betting for the Champion Hurdle despite the presence of Apple’s Jade and Laurina at Cheltenham. Clearly, there was a huge amount of disappointment when he fell at the third hurdle but there was at least relief that he got back on his feet and chased the winners home without a rider.
Staff from Nicky Henderson’s operation then posted videos of Buveur d’Air enjoying himself back at home and he’s been given the all clear so punters can be assured there is nothing physically wrong with him. That fall, which was the third serious blunder he’s made this season, has left questions about his jumping technique though.
The problem Buveur d’Air has is that his strength is also a potential weakness. The way he jumps hurdles leaves little room for error and yet it’s that style which has helped him become the best hurdler around. Providing he completes the course with Barry Geraghty on his back, Buveur d’Air will surely win the Aintree Hurdle. Backing him at evens with Coral comes with a certain amount of risk but connections are happy with him and punters will be delighted with him if he returns to winning ways as expected at a best price of evens with Coral.
Firmer Ground Gives Verdana Blue a Chance
Melon is second favourite for the Aintree Hurdle and given he finished second in the Champion Hurdle, the 6/1 that BetVictor are quoting is a price that’s more than fair. Willie Mullins said that was Melon’s best performance to date and hopes that similar tactics will allow him to be even better.
Melon was very well beaten by Espoir d’Allen though and hasn’t been consistent enough this season to recommend backing him. Instead, the best each way option could be Verdana Blue at longer odds of 14/1 with BetVictor.
Backing Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old clearly comes with a bigger risk than backing Melon but similarly there is a much bigger reward if she were to claim a place. She has already beaten Buveur d’Air this season and ran well on ground that didn’t suit her to finish fifth in the Champion Hurdle. Back on a firmer footing, Verdana Blue has a genuine chance of a place and maybe even a squeak of winning.
Previous Race Winners
- 2018 – L’Ami Serge – jockey Daryl Jacob, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2017 – Buveur D’Air – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2016 – Annie Power – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2015 – Jezki – jockey Tony McCoy, trainer Jessica Harrington
- 2014 – The New One – jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies
- 2013 – Zarkandar – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Paul Nicholls
- 2012 – Oscar Whisky – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2011 – Oscar Whisky – jockey Barry Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson
- 2010 – Khyber Kim – jockey Paddy Brennan, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies
- 2009 – Solwhit – jockey Davy Russell, trainer Charles Byrnes
- 2008 – Al Eile – jockey Timmy Murphy, trainer John Queally
- 2007 – Al Eile – jockey Timmy Murphy, trainer John Queally
Aintree Hurdle History
This contest was added to the Grand National meeting offering in 1976 and was initially run over a distance of 2m5½f. 1988 saw the distance cut to its current trip of 2m4f, and in 2013 the race was switched to its current spot on the opening Thursday.
It may be run over half a mile further than the Champion Hurdle, but as the next truly top class hurdle contest in the racing year, this nevertheless tends to attract runners who have recently competed in the shorter Cheltenham Festival event. Many have failed to cope with the additional distance over the years, but not all, with a number of Champion Hurdle winners rubber stamping their class with success here.
This has been a good race for repeat winners over the years with Aonoch, Danoli, Daring Run and Oscar Whisky all doubling up and Al Eile and Monksfield recording a treble. Al Eile and Monksfield three wins put their respective trainers, John Queally and Des McDonagh towards the head of the trainer’s table here, but there is one horse and trainer who have done even better.
Between the years of 1989 and 1994 this race belonged to Toby Balding who rattled off five wins in succession. The main contributor to the US born trainers success was his star hurdler, Morley Street. The 1991 Champion Hurdle winner won this race every year from 1990 to 1994. No horse has won as many times as Morley Street and no trainer so often as Balding.
Other talented performers to come home in front in this include Aidan O’Briens brilliant triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq who took this in 1999, and the incomparable Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup winning mare, Dawn Run, who added this prize to her haul in 1984. Another of racings outstanding mares tasted success here in 2016, with the Willie Mullins star Annie Power following up her brilliant win in the Champion Hurdle under Ruby Walsh.
2000 winner Mister Morose enters the record books as the oldest ever winner, being 10 years old at the time of his triumph for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Ruby Walsh has been the jockey to follow in the 21st century to date; rattling of a record setting five wins between 2002 and 2016. Surprisingly given his strong ties with first the Paul Nicholls and then Willie Mullins yards, Ruby’s five wins have come for five different trainers.