Champion Hurdle Tips and Offers
Champion Hurdle Preview: Tips, Betting Offers and Odds
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 although we perhaps don’t have anything at that level in 2020, this year’s Champion Hurdle is shaping up very nicely indeed.
Champion Hurdle Tips and Preview
There is no doubt that this is one of the most open renewals of the Champion Hurdle for many years. The absence of Buveur d’Air through injury is a shame whilst last year’s winner, Espoir d’Allen, tragically had to be put down during the summer. We are guaranteed a first time winner of the Champion Hurdle which is exciting but makes it that bit more difficult to call the winner.
Epatante is the favourite with the bookies even if there’s a feeling that she’s largely there by default. She hasn’t really done anything wrong but does look to be all about pace and did not look comfortable at any time when running in the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle last year. Her trainer, Nicky Henderson, puts that poor run down to the effects of the flu vaccine but looking back at that run does make it tough to justify her position at the head of the market.
In such an open renewal, this is the time to really go in search of the value for the Champion Hurdle. The first horse who represents very good value is Sharjah at odds of 12/1 with Paddy Power. Willie Mullins has an excellent record in this race which could have been improved further were Sharjah not brought down by Buveur d’Air, and he can make amends this year. For an each way bet, consider Call Me Lord at 20/1 with Ladbrokes. He has bags of stamina should the ground stay soft and will plug on up the hill better than most so will be very difficult to shake off.
Champion Hurdle Previous Winners
- 2019 – Espoir d’Allen – jockey Mark Walsh, trainer Gavin Cromwell
- 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.