CHAMPION HURDLE

The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdling event of the year and highlight of Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival.

Champion Hurdle Trophy
Grade 1 | 4yo+ | Tuesday 15.30
2 miles ½ furlong | 8 hurdles | Old Course  
Weight: 11st (4yo) / 11st 10lb (5yo+) | Allowance: 7lb for fillies & mares
Prize money (2022): £450,000 | 1st: £253,215

Former winners include many legends of the sport such as multiple winners Persian War, Bula, Night Nurse, Monksfield, Sea Pigeon, See You Then and Istabraq. 

Mares have won the last three runnings (4 of the last 7)
9 of the last 14 winners were trained by either Nicky Henderson (5) or Willie Mullins (4)
The last 8 winners were unbeaten that season
28 of the last 33 winners won last time out
14 of the last 24 winners had won at the Festival previously
6 of the last 13 winners were owned by JP McManus
10 of the last 14 winners were aged either 6 or 7
8 of the last 12 favourites won
Updated to include 2022 renewal

Unless the ground is riding very soft, the race is a real speed test with runners needing to travel strongly and jump well to still be in contention up the hill.

Three consecutive wins for mares (in addition to Annie Power in 2016), suggests their 7lb weight allowance is a significant factor.

Indeed, there were only two mares in the field of ten in 2022 and they finished 1-2.

It is another race that has been kind to Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson in recent years, with the pair accounting for all but five of the last 13 winners. 

It has also been good to leading owner JP McManus, who has won the race nine times.

LAST 5 WINNERS’ DATA

YEAR
AGE
OFFICIAL RATING
WEIGHT
2022
8
165
11-3
2021
7
161
11-3
2020
6
159
11-3
2019
5
162
11-10
2018
7
169
11-10

RECENT WINNERS

YEAR
WINNER
JOCKEY / TRAINER
SP
2022
Honeysuckle
Rachael Blackmore / Henry De Bromhead
8/11f
2021
Honeysuckle
Rachael Blackmore / Henry De Bromhead
11/10f
2020
Epatante
Barry Geraghty / Nicky Henderson
2/1f
2019
Espoir d'Allen
Mark Walsh / Gavin Cromwell
16/1
2018
Buveur d'Air
Barry Geraghty / Nicky Henderson
4/6f
2017
Buveur d'Air
Noel Fehily / Nicky Henderson
5/1
2016
Annie Power
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
5/2f
2015
Faugheen
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
4/5f
2014
Jezki
Barry Geraghty / Jessica Harrington
9/1
2013
Hurricane Fly
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
13/8f
2012
Rock On Ruby
Noel Fehily / Paul Nicholls
11/1
2011
Hurricane Fly
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
11/4f
2010
Binocular
Tony McCoy / Nicky Henderson
9/1
2009
Punjabi
Barry Geraghty / Nicky Henderson
22/1
2008
Katchit
Robert Thornton / Alan King
10/1
2007
Sublimity
Philip Carberry / John Carr
16/1
2006
Brave Inca
Tony McCoy / Colm Murphy
7/4f
2005
Hardy Eustace
Conor O'Dwyer / Dessie Hughes
7/2jf
2004
Hardy Eustace
Conor O'Dwyer / Dessie Hughes
33/1
2003
Rooster Booster
Richard Johnson / Philip Hobbs
9/2
2002
Hors La Loi III
Dean Gallagher / James Fanshawe
10/1
2001

Festival Cancelled

2000
Istabraq
Charlie Swan / Aidan O'Brien
8/15f

In 2022 defending champion Honeysuckle proved that she is one of the greatest jumps horses of the modern era.

The unbeaten mare recorded her eleventh Grade 1 success, including three straight at the Festival, all in the hands of Rachael Blackmore for trainer Henry de Bromhead:

‘RACHAEL IS BRILLIANT. SHE HAD SO MUCH HORSE UNDERNEATH HER AT THE SECOND-LAST, THEY ARE JUST A DREAM TEAM’

Blackmore had become the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle in 2021.

Honeysuckle never looked likely to be beaten and came home the comfortable winner ahead of Sharjah, who was runner-up for the second year in succession:

‘TO ME THIS WAS NEVER EVEN A DREAM. IT WAS SO FAR FROM WHAT I EVER THOUGHT COULD HAPPEN IN MY LIFE - TO BE IN CHELTENHAM, RIDING A WINNER OF A CHAMPION HURDLE’

The mare Epatante travelled effortlessly throughout in 2020 and sealed victory with a quicksilver jump at the last.

She was an eighth Champion Hurdle winner for Nicky Henderson, 35 years after his first:

‘IT’S A NICE RACE ISN’T IT? IT GOES BACK SUCH A LONG TIME SINCE THE FIRST ONE, WHICH I THINK WAS 1985, SO IT’S QUITE A LONG TIME’

Espoir d'Allen left the field, including market leaders Apple's Jade and Laurina, trailing in 2019 after Buveur d'Air fell early.

He was the first five-year-old since Katchit (2008) to win the Champion Hurdle, under Mark Walsh for trainer Gavin Cromwell:

‘ME AND GAVIN SPOKE BEFORE THE RACE AND THE PLAN WAS TO RIDE HIM FOR A PLACE - WE GOT A PLACE, IT WAS FIRST PLACE’

Buveur d'Air retained his crown in 2018, albeit the odds-on shot was made to pull out all the stops to beat Melon by a neck.

This time he was ridden by Barry Geraghty, who had missed his first Champion Hurdle victory through injury:

‘THERE WAS NOWHERE TO HIDE. THE GROUND MADE IT THE ULTIMATE TEST. THE BEST HORSE WAS GOING TO WIN AND THANKFULLY I WAS ON THE BEST HORSE’

Buveur d'Air had started the 2016/17 season in novice chases, before being switched back to hurdles by Nicky Henderson.

He finished ahead of his stablemate My Tent Or Yours, runner-up for the third time in the race, to give jockey Noel Fehily his second Champion Hurdle victory:

‘IT’S FANTASTIC. TO WIN ONE WAS GREAT, TO WIN TWO IS SPECIAL’

Annie Power was only supplemented into the 2016 renewal a month beforehand, after her stablemate Faugheen was injured.

A beaten favourite at the two previous Festivals, including an infamous fall in the Mares' Hurdle, it was third time lucky.

Willie Mullins emulated his father Paddy in training a mare to win the Champion Hurdle - Dawn Run won in 1984 for Mullins senior:

‘I THOUGHT SHE MIGHT BE ABLE TO WIN BUT I DIDN’T THINK SHE’D BE ABLE TO DO IT LIKE THAT’

In 2015 'The Machine' Faugheen led home his stablemates Arctic Fire and Hurricane Fly, for an unprecedented 1-2-3 for Willie Mullins.

Hurricane Fly was running for the fifth time in a race he had won twice with Ruby Walsh - who had chosen to ride Faugheen this time:

‘WHEN YOU ARE IN A STABLE LIKE WILLIE’S AND YOU SEE WHAT HURRICANE FLY IS DOING AT HOME, IT IS STILL A BIG CALL TO MAKE AND GET OFF HIM’

Jezki saw off My Tent Or Yours in a 1-2 for JP McManus in 2014 - a race tainted by the one that did not come home.

Our Conor suffered a fatal injury at the third flight, a year after establishing himself as the best hurdler of his generation with a 15-length win in the Triumph Hurdle.

Winning trainer Jessica Harrington added the Champion Hurdle to her two Champion Chase successes with Moscow Flyer, all ridden by Barry Geraghty:

‘THE RUNNER-UP WAS GETTING TO ME - I NEEDED THE LINE’

The winner in 2011 and then third in 2012, the brilliant Hurricane Fly regained his title in 2013 - only the second horse to do so in this race.

He did not look to be travelling well in the early stages, but Ruby Walsh kept the nine-year-old in contention and took it on at the final turn:

‘WHAT HE HAS ALONG WITH ALL THE CLASS IS AN UNBELIEVABLY BIG HEART FOR A SMALL HORSE AND HE IS AS TOUGH AS NAILS’

Rock On Ruby 2012

Hurricane Fly gave Willie Mullins his first Champion Hurdle success in 2011 after a mighty duel with the previously unbeaten Peddlers Cross.

Having missed the two previous Festivals following setbacks, Mullins was relieved to finally get him to Cheltenham:

‘HE’S GOT SPEED, STAMINA AND HE JUMPS. TODAY WAS THE DAY. I AM JUST DELIGHTED HE GOT THE CHANCE TO SHOW WHAT HE CAN DO’

Looking back further, the dour stayer Hardy Eustace retained his crown in 2005, in a race that has prompted countless debates.

Paul Carberry sat motionless on Harchibald on the run-in, with Hardy Eustace and Brave Inca being hard ridden - and the rest is history:

‘HERE COMES THE FINAL FLIGHT, HARDY EUSTACE RISES JUST AHEAD, BUT HARCHIBALD IS CRUISING UP ON THE BRIDLE’

Two years earlier, Rooster Booster was a runaway winner after the defending champion, Hors La Loi III, refused to race.

Winner of the County Hurdle 12 months earlier, the popular grey was cantering turning in and flew home in the hands of Richard Johnson:

‘HE’S A VERY GOOD LITTLE HORSE, HE TRAVELS GREAT...HE’S THE BEST HURDLER I’VE RIDDEN’

Five horses have won three Champion Hurdle's and the last to do so was the legendary Istabraq, who completed his hat-trick in 2000.

Winner of what is now the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle beforehand, he was denied a shot at a fifth Festival win when it was cancelled because of foot and mouth disease in 2001.

He returned for a swansong in 2002, aged ten, but was pulled up early by Charlie Swan:

Alderbrook became the least experienced horse ever to win a Champion Hurdle in 1995 - on only his third run over obstacles.

A top class flat horse, he was was only entered on a whim by his owner Ernie Pick after he read that ante-post favourite Danoli was coughing.

He was a first Festival winner for both jockey Norman Williamson and trainer Kim Baily, who had originally thought it an impossible task:

‘IT’S UNREAL TO THINK OF THE HORSE GETTING HIMSELF FIT IN EIGHT WEEKS, LEARNING TO JUMP AND WINNING THE CHAMPION HURDLE’

In 1987, Nicky Henderson's See You Then was another to secure a Champion Hurdle treble.

The talented but fragile horse was rarely seen outside the Festival, earning him the nickname 'See You When' and according to his jockey Steve Smith-Eccles:

‘NICKY HENDERSON WAS A GENIUS TO GET THAT HORSE ON A RACECOURSE, NEVER MIND WIN THREE CHAMPION HURDLES’

The great mare Dawn Run won the Champion Hurdle in 1984, two years before going on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Desert Orchid made his Cheltenham Festival debut in this race, despite still being a novice, but faded up the hill having made much of the running alongside Dawn Run:

John Francombe gave the Peter Easterby trained Sea Pigeon a super-cool hold up ride in a memorable Champion Hurdle finish in 1981.

He waited to halfway up the run-in to push the button on the eleven-year-old, who swept past his younger rivals to defend his crown:

In 1979 Monksfield won a ding-dong battle with Sea Pigeon, who he'd also beaten into second a year earlier:

Night Nurse, also trained by Peter Easterby, retained his crown in what is considered by many to be the classiest renewal of hurdling's blue riband event in 1977.

It also featured the likes of Monksfield, Sea Pigeon, Bird's Nest and Dramatist.

Indeed, Monksfield went on to win the next two renewals and Sea Pigeon (runner-up in 1978 & 1979) the following two.

A household name, Night Nurse, ended the season with the highest ever Timeform rating for a hurdler of 182, and he went on to finish runner-up in the 1981 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The brilliant Bula used his trademark turn of foot in the closing stages to deny Persian War a fourth Champion Hurdle in 1971, the first of his own back-to-back wins in the race:

Winner of the Triumph Hurdle in 1967, Persian War then won his three successive Champion Hurdle's on ground ranging from firm to heavy.

His road to the 1970 Champion Hurdle saw a string of defeats, a bit of lameness and some breathing problems, but come the day he was unwilling to relinquish his crown:

PREVIOUS WINNERS

YEAR
WINNER
JOCKEY / TRAINER
SP
1999
Istabraq
Charlie Swan / Aidan O'Brien
4/9f
1998
Istabraq
Charlie Swan / Aidan O'Brien
3/1f
1997
Make A Stand
Tony McCoy / Martin Pipe
7/1
1996
Collier Bay
Graham Bradley / Jim Old
9/1
1995
Alderbrook
Norman Williamson / Kim Bailey
11/2
1994
Flakey Dove
Mark Dwyer / Richard Price
9/1
1993
Granville Again
Peter Scudamore / Martin Pipe
13/2
1992
Royal Gait
Graham McCourt / James Fanshawe
6/1
1991
Morley Street
Jimmy Frost / Toby Balding
4/1f
1990
Kribensis
Richard Dunwoody / Michael Stoute
95/40
1989
Beech Road
Richard Guest / Toby Balding
50/1
1988
Celtic Shot
Peter Scudamore / Fred Winter
7/1
1987
See You Then
Steve Smith Eccles / Nicky Henderson
11/10f
1986
See You Then
Steve Smith Eccles / Nicky Henderson
5/6f
1985
See You Then
Steve Smith Eccles / Nicky Henderson
16/1
1984
Dawn Run
Jonjo O'Neill / Paddy Mullins
4/5f
1983
Gaye Brief
Richard Linley / Mercy Rimell
7/1
1982
For Auction
Colin Magnier / Michael Cunningham
40/1
1981
Sea Pigeon
John Francome / Peter Easterby
7/4f
1980
Sea Pigeon
Jonjo O'Neill / Peter Easterby
13/2
1979
Monksfield
Dessie Hughes / Des McDonogh
9/4f
1978
Monksfield
Tommy Kinane / Des McDonogh
11/2
1977
Night Nurse
Paddy Broderick / Peter Easterby
15/2
1976
Night Nurse
Paddy Broderick / Peter Easterby
2/1f
1975
Comedy Of Errors
Ken White / Fred Rimell
11/8f
1974
Lanzarote
Richard Pitman / Fred Winter
7/4
1973
Comedy Of Errors
Bill Smith / Fred Rimell
8/1
1972
Bula
Paul Kelleway / Fred Winter
8/11f
1971
Bula
Paul Kelleway / Fred Winter
15/8f
1970
Persian War
Jimmy Uttley / Colin Davies
5/4f
1969
Persian War
Jimmy Uttley / Colin Davies
6/4f
1968
Persian War
Jimmy Uttley / Colin Davies
4/1
1967
Saucy Kit
Roy Edwards / Peter Easterby
100/6
1966
Salmon Spray
Johnny Haine / Bob Turnell
4/1
1965
Kirriemuir
Willie Robinson / Fulke Walwyn
50/1
1964
Magic Court
Pat McCarron / Tommy Robson
100/7
1963
Winning Fair
Alan Lillingston / George Spencer
100/9
1962
Anzio
Willie Robinson / Fulke Walwyn
11/2
1961
Eborneezer
Fred Winter / Ryan Price
4/1
1960
Another Flash
Bobby Beasley / Paddy Sleator
11/4f
1959
Fare Time
Fred Winter / Ryan Price
13/2
1958
Bandalore
George Slack / Stan Wright
20/1
1957
Merry Deal
Grenville Underwood / Arthur Jones
28/1
1956
Doorknocker
Harry Sprague / Charlie Hall
100/9
1955
Clair Soleil
Fred Winter / Ryan Price
5/2f
1954
Sir Ken
Tim Molony / Willie Stephenson
4/9f
1953
Sir Ken
Tim Molony / Willie Stephenson
2/5f
1952
Sir Ken
Tim Molony / Willie Stephenson
3/1f
1951
Hatton's Grace
Tim Molony / Vincent O'Brien
4/1
1950
Hatton's Grace
Aubrey Brabazon / Vincent O'Brien
5/2f
1949
Hatton's Grace
Aubrey Brabazon / Vincent O'Brien
100/7
1948
National Spirit
Ron Smyth / Vic Smyth
6/4f
1947*
National Spirit
Danny Morgan / Vic Smyth
7/1
1946
Distel
Bobby O'Ryan / Charles Rogers
4/5f
1945
Brains Trust
Fred Rimell / Gerry Wilson
9/2
1944

No Race

1943

No Race

1942
Forestation
Ron Smyth / Vic Smyth
10/1
1941
Seneca
Ron Smyth / Vic Smyth
7/1
1940
Solford
Sean Magee / Owen Anthony
5/2f
1939
African Sister
Keith Piggott / Charles Piggott
10/1
1938
Our Hope
Perry Harding / Roderic Gubbins
5/1
1937
Free Fare
Georges Pellerin / Ted Gwilt
2/1f
1936
Victor Norman
Frenchie Nicholson / Morgan Blair
4/1
1935
Lion Courage
Gerry Wilson / Frank Brown
100/8
1934
Chenango
Danny Morgan / Ivor Anthony
4/9f
1933
Insurance
Billy Stott / Basil Briscoe
10/11f
1932
Insurance
Ted Leader / Basil Briscoe
4/5f
1931

No Race

1930
Brown Tony
Tommy Cullinan / Jack Anthony
7/2
1929
Royal Falcon
Dick Rees / Bob Gore
11/2
1928
Brown Jack
Bilbie Rees / Aubrey Hastings
4/1
1927
Blaris
George Duller / Bill Payne
11/10f
All Champion Hurdle winners prior to 2000

* Run at April meeting

The race was originally called the Champion Hurdle Challenge Cup.

CHAMPION HURDLE FAQ’s