Champion Hurdle

The Unibet Champion Hurdle takes place at 3.30pm and is the feature race on Day 1 (Tuesday) of the Cheltenham Festival. The race will be broadcast on ITV and Racing TV (RTV). It is the first open Grade 1 of the festival. It is also the first of four key championship races that take centre stage throughout the festival.

Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson have dominated the Champion Hurdle in recent years, having each won four of the last ten runnings. The Henderson-trained dual winner Buveur D’Air will bid for a third consecutive victory in the race this year.

Length of race – The race is run over 2m½f.
Where to watch – ITV and RTV.
When to watch – Tuesday, March 12 at 3.30pm
Prize-money – Last year’s race was worth £450,000.
Course – The race is run on the Old course at Cheltenham.
Race type – The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 eligible to horses who are officially rated at least 130.
Weights – Most horses will run off level weights carrying 11st 10lb, with mares getting an allowance of 7lb. Four-year-olds get an allowance of 8lb.
Ages – Horses aged four or older can compete in the Champion Hurdle. Most runners are typically aged five or older.
Sponsor – Unibet have sponsored the race since 2018.

Past ten winners:

 

Year Horse Previous form Age Price Trainer Jockey
2018 Buveur D’Air 11-111 7 4-6F Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty
2017 Buveur D’Air 31-111 6 5-1 Nicky Henderson Noel Fehily
2016 Annie Power 21-F-11 8 5-2F Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2015 Faugheen 111-11 7 4-5F Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2014 Jezki 1-1124 6 9-1 Jessica Harrington Barry Geraghty
2013 Hurricane Fly 31-111 9 13-8F Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2012 Rock On Ruby 223-12 7 11-1 Paul Nicholls Noel Fehily
2011 Hurricane Fly 31-111 7 11-4F Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2010 Binocular 13-531 6 9-1 Nicky Henderson Tony McCoy
2009 Punjabi 31-1F3 6 22-1 Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty

Race stats

  • Adjusted RPR of at least 163, 10/10
  • Rated within 8lb of RPR top-rated, 10/10
  • No more than 12 hurdle runs, 9/10
  • Won a Grade 1 hurdle, 9/10
  • Aged between six and eight, 9/10
  • Ran within the past 51 days, 8/10
  • Won last time out, 7/10

Other factors

  • Katchit (2008) broke a longstanding trend when he became the first
    five-year-old to win since See You Then in 1985. In the intervening years 73 had failed, while 28 have come up short since
  • Only two winners had not run since the turn of the year (Rock On Ruby and Faugheen)
  • Ruby Walsh is the joint-leading rider in the history of the Champion Hurdle with four wins along with Tim Molony, who won the race in consecutive years between 1951-1954. Walsh’s victories came on Hurricane Fly (2011, 2013), Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016).
  • Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer in the Champion Hurdle with seven successes. His victories came with See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010) and Buveur D’Air (2017, 2018).

Key trials

For British-trained horses, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton is used as a key trial for the Champion Hurdle with Buveur D’Air winning the festive highlight before going on to achieve Cheltenham glory in 2018.
Slightly earlier in December, the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham is also a contest of note, with the likes of My Tent Or Yours and The New One winning before placing in Champion Hurdles.
The Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown around early February is another traditional stepping stone. The Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in late November or early December is also a prominent trial.
A pair of Grade 1 contests at Leopardstown are deemed the strongest trials in Ireland. The December Festival Hurdle was won by Hurricane Fly en route to his two victories in the Champion Hurdle. The Irish Champion Hurdle, which takes place in February, has been won by the aforementioned Hurricane Fly and 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen in recent years.

What happened last year?

Buveur D’Air and Melon served up a thrilling duel in the home straight, with the former prevailing by a neck in the hands of Barry Geraghty to retain his crown. View the 2018 Unibet Champion Hurdle result and replay here.

Where can I get Cheltenham Festival tickets?

Cheltenham Festival tickets can be purchased from the official festival website here.

Champion Hurdle Tip

Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then, Istabraq and Buveur D’Air? JP McManus’s eight-year-old is on the cusp of joining an elite list of hat-trick-winning Champion Hurdlers and I believe he will succeed. Apple’s Jade has been given the thumbs-up to line up, although a part of me feels her front-running style will play into the hands of the champ who hurdles like lightning and can be delivered with a sharp turn of foot after the last.
(Cathal Gahan)

Forecast
1. Buveur D’Air, 2. Apple’s Jade, 3. Laurina

View the racecard and place your bets here.