A Look Ahead To the 2019 Champion Hurdle
The Champion Hurdle was first held nearly 90 years ago and has grown into one of the most prestigious races on the National Hunt calendar.
Part of the Triple Crown of Hurdling
Held on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, the Champion Hurdle Chase is a Grade 1 hurdle contested over 2 miles and 87 yards (3,298 metres). The race features eight hurdles and is open to horses aged four and over. It is recognised as the most prestigious hurdles race on the National Hunt calendar.
The Champions Hurdle is the last leg of hurdling’s Triple Crown, which also includes The Fighting Fifth Hurdle, held at the Newcastle Racecourse and The Christmas Hurdle, held at Kempton Park. The only horse ever to win the crown was the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Kribensis, who achieved the feat in the 1989/90 season.
The golden eras
The period between 1947 and 1954 was known as the first golden era of the Champions Hurdle. During that time, three horses, National Spirit, Hatton’s Grace and Sir Ken shared eight wins with National Spirit winning twice and the other two winning three apiece.
Hatton’s Grace became the first horse to win the race three times, doing so in consecutive seasons between 1949 and 1951, but his achievements were soon equalled by Sir Ken who prevailed in the following three years.
That golden era was surpassed between 1968 and 1979 when three-time winner Persian War’s exploits were followed by double wins for Bula, Comedy of Errors, Night Nurse and Monksfield. The 1977 renewal is still ranked amongst the strongest ever fields to line up for the event.
See You Then reigned supreme from 1985 to 1987, while Istabraq remains the last triple winner of the Champion Hurdle, triumphing in 1998, 1999 and 2000. His chances of winning for an unprecedented fourth time were scuppered when the 2001 festival was cancelled following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
2019 Champion Hurdle preview & tips
For this year’s Champion Hurdle 2019 tips, we begin with 2017 and 2018 winner Buveur d’Air, who will look to join the elite club of horses to have won three Champion Hurdles. Claiming a third-straight crown at any Grade 1 event can prove a step too far for many runners but plenty have faith in Buveur d’Air. In the ante-post betting, he is currently priced around 2/1, slightly ahead of Apples Jade.
A comeback win over Samcro in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle hinted at a return to his best, although it was later revealed that his rival was carrying an injury. His chances of claiming the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day were hampered by a mistake three fences out. The speedy mare Verdana Blue capitalised on that occasion to win by a short head. Verdana Blue will be among those challenging Buveur d’Air in the upcoming race.
Aside from those two, Apples Jade and Laurina are both well-fancied but the latter looks the most promising for this race. Unbeaten in five, the Willie Mullins-trained mare looks set be jockey Ruby Walsh’s pick for this race and that fact alone has created a real buzz amongst punters. Laurina can be backed at around 7/2.