The Champion Hurdle
The Champion Hurdle is seen as the most prestigious hurdle event in the racing calendar and is extremely popular among Cheltenham festival betting. Run over the old course at Cheltenham, horses that are aged 4 years and above must navigate the 2 mile track whilst jumping 8 hurdles in order to win the event. It’s the final race leg of the Triple Crown of hurdling which includes The Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newmarket and The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park.
The first Champion Hurdle was run in 1927 and the winner, Blaris, only won prize money of £365 (equivalent to around £16,000 today) which compares pretty poorly with the £250,000 Annie Power was awarded for winning the race in 2016. Prize money for the winner of the 2017 race is rumoured to be around £275,000. During the 1932 meeting the race was ran with only 3 horses, the smallest field in its entire history. Between 1947 and 1955 there were only 3 winners who split the prizes between them; National Spirit, Hatton’s Grace and Sir Ken. The race had another golden era during the 70’s with Champion Hurdle Triple winner Persian War and other notable horses such as Night Nurse, Monksfield, Bula and Comedy of Errors. The 1977 race was named by the Racing post as “the strongest of fields ever assembled” with Night Nurse beating Sea Pigeon and Monksfield.
The last time the race was ever won three times was by Istabraq, who won the race in 1998, 1999 and 2000. He was backed to continue winning in the 2001 meeting but due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak it never materialised. He did return for the 2002 Festival but didn’t finish the race and was retired shortly after.
The 2016 winner, Annie Power, became only the fourth mare ever to win the event joining the likes of Dawn Run and Flakey Dove. Trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by veteran jockey Ruby Walsh, Annie Power blew the field away to clinch the title.
Both winners of this race in the past two meetings, Annie Power and Faugheen, are out through injury this year leaving the event wide open. Early markets have Yanworth as the current favourite.
Here’s a handy infographic with all information about the Cheltenham Festival 2017: