Spotlight on the Champion Hurdle
The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle race open to four-year-olds and older and is the feature race on the opening day of the Festival. It is run over a distance of two miles and 110 yards and eight hurdles are negotiated during the race. The race is regarded as being the absolute pinnacle of National Hunt racing hurdling achievement.
The first Champion Hurdle was run in 1927 and its first winner, Blaris , took home a first prize of £365. Today’s winner takes home the princely sum of £227,800.
Prolific multiple winners in the history of this race have included Hatton’s Grace (1949, ‘50, ‘51), Sir Ken (1952, ‘53, ‘54), Persian War (1968, ‘69, ‘70), See You Then (1985, ‘86, ‘87) and Istabraq (1998, ‘99, ‘00).
Hurricane Fly could possibly join that esteemed list if he wins today after winning this event twice already back in 2011 and 2013.
Here are some trends and statistics to bear in mind based on the past ten runnings of the race.
Eight of the past ten winners have been in the six to eight-year-old bracket.
The only five-year-old winner in the past twenty five years was Katchit in 2008.
Horses ten years old or older have a woeful record in the race. The only horse aged over ten to win in the past fifty years was Sea Pigeon in 1980/81.
Seven of the past ten winners won last time out.
Nine out of the ten past winners had run two to four times that season.
Nine out of the past ten winners had had a final prep run within 51 days of the Festival.
Eight out of the past ten winners had previously won a Grade One hurdle.
Cheltenham Festival Form
The defending champion’s return form reads: 132469324
Five out of the past ten winners ran in the previous season’s Champion Hurdle and finished:
Other Key Races
Punchestown Champion Hurdle winner: 11161314 (5-1-8)
Five of the past ten winners ran in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, winning that race on all five occasions.
Five of the six Irish trained winners ran in the Irish Champion Hurdle and finished: 31114
Irish trained runners have won six of the last ten renewals (6-5-51).
Willie Mullins has trained Hurricane Fly to finish 1-3-1-4 in the past four years.
Jessica Harrington has trained one winner and one placed horse out of four previous runners in this race.
Nicky Henderson has trained two winners and six placed horses from his fifteen runners in the past ten years.
Surprisingly six of the last eight winners have gone off between the odds of 9/1 and 22/1. Only Hurricane Fly’s two wins at 11/4 & 13/8 have bucked that trend.
Champion Hurdle 2015 summary
Popular as he is, it’s very hard to confidently side with the legend that is Hurricane Fly based on the age statistics for this race. Seemingly that statistic is against him. However, who is to say that this hurdling veteran superstar cannot emulate the great Sea Pigeon himself?
Naturally many people consider Faugheen one of the bankers of the meeting and it is very difficult to be critical of an unbeaten horse. But taking even money for a runner in a race that has not been particularly kind to favourites in recent years will lead many punters to look elsewhere for value.
That value may lie with A.P McCoy’s final Champion Hurdle ride, JEZKI. The defending champion may have seen much of Hurricane Fly’s rear-end all over the winter, however Cheltenham is an entirely different playing field and McCoy rates him as one of his main chances of week. Who would argue with AP?