Our Champion Hurdle tips are now live on site so this is a good chance for us to look back at the Top 5 most memorable Champion Hurdle moments in the past couple of decades. The feature race on Day 1 of the Cheltenham festival is always a crowd puller and probably the highlight of the week to many, especially the people from Ireland who have a love affair with the race due to the success of Aidan O’Brien, Willie Mullins and many more trainers from the land of green. Let’s move on and take a look back at our most memorable moments in recent history.
1998 – ISTABRAQ
What a dream day for the Irish fans as JP McManus and Aidan O’Brien team up to win the Champion Hurdle on St Patrick’s Day in the traditional green and yellow hoops. Ridden by Charlie Swan, the mighty Istabraq, arguably the greatest Champion Hurdle horse ever, won the first of his three Champion Hurdle’s in scintillating fashion. Sent off the 3/1 favourite, a crazy price in hindsight of course, he cruised through his race and went clear two hurdles out to win by twelve lengths from his stablemate Theatreworld in the eighteen runner field. He went on to win the Champion Hurdle three years in a row, a true champion.
2005 – HARDY EUSTACE
What a suitable name for this horse, he was certainly “hardy” and never knew when he was beat. It didn’t matter how well his opponents were travelling or if he was off the bridle or not, he just kept on finding and finding up that Cheltenham hill when he needed to pull it out of the fire. In 2004, he caused a huge upset to beat the 6/4 favourite Rooster Booster who had tanked into the race and breezed upsides but Hardy Eustace wanted that hill more and his stamina kicked in. In 2005, probably one of the best races’ in festival history, Harchibald, a bridle horse, came there travelling like a sure winner but a bridle horse won’t beat an out and out stayer up that Cheltenham hill and Hardy Eustace held on bravely to win, for all Paul Carberry got a huge amount of stick for his ride on the runner-up, unjustly.
2010 – BINOCULAR
The 2010 Champion Hurdle was an extremely memorable one, probably for the wrong reason for many horse racing fans out there. Nicky Henderson said that the horse would not run in the race and he was taken out of the ante post markets as a consequence. Some backers managed to back the horse at 999/1 on the Betfair exchanges and a not too long before the festival, it was announced that Binocular was in fact not injured and was fit enough to take his chance. Ridden by Tony McCoy for J.P. McManus, he cruised through his race and flew up the hill to win comprehensively at 9/1.
2011 – HURRICANE FLY
Willie Mullins started his love affair with the Champion Hurdle in 2011, the first time he ever won the race surprisingly. Owned by George Creighton and Rose Boyd, Hurricane Fly was a French import who started out life on the flat in France. He was a small horse but he got away with it by being an amazingly slick jumper, he hardly ever made an error in that department which saved him many a length. Ruby Walsh rode him to victory to just see off the gallant efforts of Peddler’s Cross. “The Fly” went on to regain his title in 2013 and will go down as one of the true Champion hurdle greats.
2015 – FAUGHEEN
Nicknamed “The Machine”, we were extremely lucky to be alive to witness the magnificent Faugheen who was imply breath-taking nearly every time he set foot on a racecourse, whether it was over two miles or three. Sent off the 4/5 favourite for owner Rich Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins, he arrived to the festival off the back of a Neptune Novice’ Hurdle success the previous season. To win a Champion hurdle, a horse doesn’t necessarily need to be a speedy type. As long as a horse has a high cruising speed, jumps well and has plenty of stamina to attack that Cheltenham hill, they should be in with a great chance. Hardy Eustace was the perfect example as was Faugheen who was a proven stayer. He came under pressure half a mile from home but his stamina kicked into play after the final bend going up the hill and he powered away to win in style in the hands of Ruby Walsh. Sadly, injury saw him miss the 2016 renewal and will also see him miss the 2017 renewal.
The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival is always a classic with some of the best action of the week! There are some big races to kick our Cheltenham tips off, including the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle which was won by Nicky Henderson’s Altior, the odds on favourite for this year’s Arkle. This year’s Champion Hurdle tip is online now!