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2019 Champion Hurdle Ante-Post Tips

Our expert takes a look through the early ante-post betting for the Champion Hurdle and highlights three horses for punters to back in the main event on day one of 2019 Cheltenham Festival.

Day one of the Cheltenham Festival is known as Champions’ Day and features more Grade One contests than any of the other three days. The main event on Tuesday is always the Champions Hurdle - a race which has been won by greats like Hatton’s Grace, Persian War, Sea Pigeon, Istabraq, who all won the accolade of being Champion Hurdler three times during their illustrious careers.

The betting for this year’s Champion Hurdle was shook up after Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown dropped a, somewhat expected, bombshell at the end of October. Our expert has taken a look through the current market and highlighted three horses who look worthy of an ante-post wager.

2019 Champion Hurdle Tips

👑 The One To Beat 👑

Samcro shot to the head of the betting, after Gordon Elliott revealed he had talked to the lads and they had decided to target a first Champion Hurdle for Gigginstown. There’s no denying Samcro is a formidable hurdler, even at his young age, but I’m really not convinced that two miles is his distance. Jack Kennedy’s mount got better with every inch of the Ballymore trip as he claimed a first Cheltenham Festival crown last season and it’s impossible to say whether he was mounting a winning challenge when coming down in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.

For me, Samcro's inclusion has made BUVEUR D’AIR an even more appealing prospect in the ante-post betting and the reigning two-time winner has to be considered the prime contender for the 2019 renewal.

Nicky Henderson’s star hurdler struggled with fitness problems last season and was far from his best at Cheltenham, where he hated the heavy ground. Yet, Buveur D’Air still managed to complete the season unbeaten, summoning all his class in the closing stages to see off Melon and retain his Champion Hurdle crown.

I expect Buveur D’Air to be more active this season and there are few here in Britain who will be quick enough to deny him victory in races like the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. I hope Samcro can maintain his form in the build-up to the Champion Hurdle, so when they clash on the grandest stage of them all, Buveur D’Air can show the Irish raider who really is the boss.

⚠️ The Big Danger ⚠️

Some of you may think this is a ludicrous statement, but I fear LAURINA more than Samcro. In a recent stable tour, Willie Mullins said Laurina would be aimed at a tilt at the Champion Hurdle and she will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Annie Power by giving the colts a lesson in two mile speed.

Whispers drifting across the Irish Sea from County Carlow said that Laurina was the real deal and she certainly proved so when she arrived at Cheltenham. Willie Mullins’ novice took the tricky ground conditions in her stride, cantering to a lengthy victory with Paul Townend barely having to move in the saddle. It was a similar story two weeks later at Fairyhouse, as Laurina cruised to a maiden Grade One victory after an inch-perfect hurdling display.

Being a mare, the Mares’ Hurdle is an option, but I expect last year’s winner, Benie Des Dieux to be given another crack at that, along with the returning Limini. Annie Power ended her unbeaten novice campaign rated 155 - Laurina is currently just three pounds short of that lofty mark and I would be surprised if she didn’t return to Cheltenham as a strong challenger to Buveur D’Air.

♞ The Dark Horse ♞

Arguments could be made for Supreme champion Summerville Boy, or even 4-Y-O Anniversary Hurdle winner, We Have A Dream to be included in this section. However, it’s easy to forget that it was SUPASUNDAE who ended last season as the top two-mile hurdler in Ireland and I think Jessica Harrington should target the Champion Hurdle over another tilt at the Stayers’.

The 2016 Coral Cup winner won just two of his six outings last season, both coming over two miles. Supasundae lowered Faugheen’s colours in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February and was on-hand to take advantage when Samcro and Melon came a cropper to snatch the Punchestown Champion Hurdle crown at the end of the season.

Harrington’s hurdler has performed with great credit over longer trips, losing out to Apple’s Jade by just half-a-length at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, before crossing the line a two-length runner-up behind Penhill at Cheltenham. I don’t doubt Supasundae has the ability to win over three miles, but he’s proven he has the speed to challenge anyone in the 16 furlong division and his extra staying power will come in extremely handy down the home straight in the Champion Hurdle. It will be very interesting to see which path Harrington takes this tenacious, consistent sort down during the 2018/19 season.
Punters can look forward to another exciting renewal of the Champion Hurdle at this year's Festival and a whole host of stars will be looking to score.
The race is run over two miles and about half a furlong on the Old Course at Cheltenham. Invariably, a huge cheers rings out from the packed grandstands when the runners pass the enclosures for the first time. 

However, it is often the jumping out in the country that sorts the field out, and whilst the lucky few may still be cruising coming down the hill, the petrol tank can empty quickly once the contenders turn off the final bend and face the punishing climb to the finish.

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Champion Hurdle expert tips

Interestingly, despite it being the race all the best hurdlers are aimed at, multiple winners are not uncommon as Istabraq and Hardy Eustace have proved in recent years. This is probably partly due to the unique requirements of the race and horses with previous course form, especially previous Festival form, have fared particularly well in the event. In addition, you often need a horse that stays further than two miles, as the good record in the race of recent SunAlliance Novices Hurdle (now Neptune Novices' Hurdle) winners shows.

Who will come out on top in this year's sensational race?

The world's greatest two mile contest

The Champion Hurdle (3:20pm) is the highlight of day one of the Cheltenham Festival and the most prestigious hurdle race run all season.

It is open to horses aged four years old and upwards, and in 2017 will carry a total prize fund of £400,000 and be run on Tuesday, March 13.

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Expert Champion Hurdle Tips & Selections

TipsterSelectionRationaleTip
Ruby WalshYanworthThe one to beat. Brain Power is an improving handicapperRead
Barry GeraghtyBrain PowerImpressive win at AscotRead
Jonathan VinePetit MouchoirThe six-year-old likes to stay in touch with the leaders and isn’t afraid to dictate the pace.Read
Tom SegalMoon RacerHe's been working the house down.Read
Nina CarberryFootpad (place)I like Yanworth but not as impressive last time out.Read
Festival StaffSee the best offersfor the Champion Hurdle 2017Read

Champion Hurdle Selections

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Champion Hurdle facts

Race Facts

1. The Champion Hurdle was inaugurated in 1927, with a value to the winner of £365. The race was abandoned in 1931 due to persistent frost, in 1943 and 1944 because of the Second World War, and in 2001 because of foot and mouth disease.

2. There have only been three sponsors of this great race since its inception. Waterford Crystal backed the contest from 1978 to 1990 while the Smurfit Group sponsored the race from 1991 to 2010. Stan James took over sponsorship in 2011 and this continues today.

3. The largest field has been 24 (1964 and 1991) and the smallest three (1932). The first five runnings of the race saw a total of only 24 runners between them. The current safety limit is 28.

4. The Stan James Champion Hurdle is a contest for multiple winners. Peter Easterby and Nicky Henderson are the race’s most successful trainers, with five wins each. Easterby’s victories came courtesy of Saucy Kit (1967), Night Nurse (1976 and 1977) and Sea Pigeon (1980 and 1981). Nicky Henderson’s five victories so far have come with See You Then (1985, 1986 and 1987), Punjabi (2009) and Binocular (2010).

5. Among jockeys, Tim Molony won the race most often with four victories, on Hatton’s Grace (1951) and Sir Ken (1952, 1953 & 1954). Tony ( A P) McCoy is the most successful current jockey with three wins aboard Make A Stand (1997), Brave Inca (2006) and Binocular (2010).

6. The most successful owners are Dorothy Paget, who won the race four times thanks to Insurance (1932, 1933), Solford (1940) and Distel (1946), and J P McManus, who owned triple winner Istabraq (1998, 1999 and 2000) and Binocular (2010).

7. Istabraq, successful in the three Champion Hurdles from 1998 to 2000, was retired after failing to become the first horse to win the race four times in 2002. The four other three-time winners are Hatton’s Grace (1949-51), Sir Ken (1952-54), Persian War (1968-70) and See You Then (1985-87).

8. The race has been won seven times by entires, but only twice by mares - Dawn Run (1984) and Flakey Dove (1994).

9. Four greys have won, the most recent being Rooster Booster in 2003. The others were Kribensis in 1990, Our Hope in 1938 and Victor Norman in 1936. Only one roan horse has won the Champion Hurdle, Anzio in 1962.

10. Istabraq’s success in 2000 in a time of 3 minutes 48.1 seconds beat the previous Champion Hurdle record time, set by Make A Stand in 1997, of 3 minutes 48.4 seconds.

11. Dessie Hughes, who trained Hardy Eustace to win in 2004 and 2005, is only the fourth person to have both ridden and trained a Stan James Champion Hurdle winner, having partnered Monksfield in 1979. The others to have achieved this double were Fred Winter, Fred Rimell and Gerry Wilson.

Recent winners

2018 Buveur D'Air
2017 Buveur D'air
2016 Annie Power
2015 Faugheen
2014 Jezki
2013 Hurricane Fly
2012 Rock On Ruby
2011 Hurricane Fly
2010 Binocular
2009 Punjabi
2008 Katchit
2007 Sublimity
2006 Brave Inca
2005 Hardy Eustace
2004 Hardy Eustace
2003 Rooster Booster
2002 Hors La Loi III
2000 Istabraq
1999 Istabraq
1998 Istabraq
1997 Make A Stand
1996 Collier Bay
1995 Alderbrook
1994 Flakey Dove
1993 Granville Again
1992 Royal Gait
1991 Morley Street
1990 Kribensis
1989 Beech Road
Roll of Honour (1927-1988)

(recent winners detailed towards top of page)

Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer SP

1988 Celtic Shot 6-12-00 Peter Scudamore Fred Winter 7/1
1987 See You Then 7-12-00 Steve Smith Eccles Nicky Henderson 11/10F
1986 See You Then 6-12-00 Steve Smith Eccles Nicky Henderson 5/6F
1985 See You Then 5-12-00 Steve Smith Eccles Nicky Henderson 16/1
1984 Dawn Run 6-11-09 Jonjo O’Neill Paddy Mullins IRE 4/5F
1983 Gaye Brief 6-12-00 Richard Linley Mercy Rimell 7/1
1982 For Auction 6-12-00 Mr Colin Magnier Michael Cunningham IRE 40/1
1981 Sea Pigeon 11-12-00 John Francome Peter Easterby 7/4F
1980 Sea Pigeon 10-12-00 Jonjo O’Neill Peter Easterby 13/2
1979 Monksfield 7-12-00 Dessie Hughes Des McDonogh IRE 9/4F
1978 Monksfield 6-12-00 Tommy Kinane Des McDonogh IRE 11/2
1977 Night Nurse 6-12-00 Paddy Broderick Peter Easterby 15/2
1976 Night Nurse 5-12-00 Paddy Broderick Peter Easterby 2/1F
1975 Comedy Of Errors 8-12-00 Ken White Fred Rimell 11/8F
1974 Lanzarote 6-12-00 Richard Pitman Fred Winter 7/4
1973 Comedy Of Errors 6-12-00 Bill Smith Fred Rimell 8/1
1972 Bula 7-12-00 Paul Kelleway Fred Winter 8/11F
1971 Bula 6-12-00 Paul Kelleway Fred Winter 15/8F
1970 Persian War 7-12-00 Jimmy Uttley Colin Davies 5/4F
1969 Persian War 6-12-00 Jimmy Uttley Colin Davies 6/4F
1968 Persian War 5-11-12 Jimmy Uttley Colin Davies 4/1
1967 Saucy Kit 6-12-00 Roy Edwards Peter Easterby 100/6
1966 Salmon Spray 8-12-00 Johnnie Haine Bob Turnell 4/1
1965 Kirriemuir 5-12-00 Willie Robinson Fulke Walwyn 50/1
1964 Magic Court 6-12-00 Pat McCarron Tommy Robson 100/6
1963 Winning Fair 8-12-00 Mr Alan Lillingston George Spencer IRE 100/9
1962 Anzio 5-11-12 Willie Robinson Fulke Walwyn 11/2
1961 Eborneezer 6-12-00 Fred Winter Ryan Price 4/1
1960 Another Flash 6-12-00 Bobby Beasley Paddy Sleator IRE 11/4F
1959 Fare Time 6-12-00 Fred Winter Ryan Price 13/2
1958 Bandalore 7-12-00 George Slack Stan Wright 20/1
1957 Merry Deal 7-12-00 Grenville Underwood Arthur Jones 28/1
1956 Doorknocker 8-12-00 Harry Sprague Charlie Hall 100/9
1955 Clair Soleil 6-12-00 Fred Winter Ryan Price 5/2F
1954 Sir Ken 7-12-00 Tim Molony Willie Stephenson 4/9F
1953 Sir Ken 6-12-00 Tim Molony Willie Stephenson 2/5F
1952 Sir Ken 5-11-12 Tim Molony Willie Stephenson 3/1F
1951 Hatton’s Grace 11-12-00 Tim Molony Vincent O’Brien IRE 4/1
1950 Hatton’s Grace 10-12-00 Aubrey Brabazon Vincent O’Brien IRE 5/2F
1949 Hatton’s Grace 9-12-00 Aubrey Brabazon Vincent O’Brien IRE 100/7
1948 National Spirit 7-12-00 Ron Smyth Vic Smyth 6/4F
1947 National Spirit 6-12-00 Danny Morgan Vic Smyth 7/1
1946 Distel 5-11-10 Bobby O’Ryan Charlie Rogers IRE 4/5F
1945 Brains Trust 5-11-10 Fred Rimell Gerry Wilson 9/2 1
1943-44 No Race
1942 Forestation 4-11-00 Ron Smyth Vic Smyth 10/1 2
1941 Seneca 4-11-00 Ron Smyth Vic Smyth 7/1
1940 Solford 9-12-00 Sean Magee Owen Anthony 5/2F
1939 African Sister 7-12-00 Keith Piggott Charles Piggott 10/1
1938 Our Hope 9-12-00 Perry Harding Roderic Gubbins 5/1
1937 Free Fare 9-12-00 Georges Pellerin Ted Gwilt 2/1F
1936 Victor Norman 5-11-00 Frenchie Nicholson Morgan Blair 4/1
1935 Lion Courage 7-12-00 Gerry Wilson F Brown 100/8
1934 Chenango 7-12-00 Danny Morgan Ivor Anthony 4/9F
1933 Insurance 6-12-00 Billy Stott Basil Briscoe 10/11F
1932 Insurance 5-12-00 Ted Leader Basil Briscoe 4/5F
1931 No race
1930 Brown Tony 4-11-00 Tommy Cullinan Jack Anthony 7/2
1929 Royal Falcon 6-12-00 Dick Rees Bob Gore 11/2
1928 Brown Jack 4-11-00 Bilby Rees Aubrey Hastings 4/1
1927 Blaris 6-12-00 George Duller Bill Payne 11/10F

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