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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.

2018 Champion Hurdle Runner By Runner Guide & Tips

Brian Healy looks ahead to Tuesday's Cheltenham Festival feature race, the Champion Hurdle. Can Buveur D'air retain his crown?

The big feature race of the first day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival is the two-mile Champion Hurdle which goest to post at 3.30pm as the fourth race of the afternoon on Festival Tuesday.

Boasting a classy field of runners headed by defending champion Buveur D’air, the Tuesday feature carries a winners’ prize in excess of £250,000 and the action will unfold live on ITV Racing.

A strong Irish challenge for this contest will be spearheaded by Willie Mullins’ Faugheen (6/1, Paddy Power) who won the race three years ago. The Germany gelding was robbed of a title defence by injury twelve months ago, but following a winning return with a defeat of Jezki at Punchestown, he has been beaten on both subsequent outings.

Having ran no sort of a race over Christmas, he found Supasundae too strong in the Irish Champion Hurdle last time, and on that evidence his powers may just be beginning to wane. While ‘the machine’ can’t be totally ruled out if back to his best and reunited with Ruby Walsh, his previous aura of invincibility has been dented although a big run wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Melon (16/1, William Hill) meanwhile doesn’t appear to have built on his return at Down Royal when winning the WKD Hurdle, and he has been beaten in both the International Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle since. 

The Medicean gelding finished behind his stablemate Faugheen, as well as the likes of Mick Jazz and Jezki, and this will demand more from him; on form he has a lot to make up.

Other Mullins entrants include Bapaume (66/1, William Hill) who was well beaten when last seen out in the Boyne Hurdle; but he may do better back at two miles. However, this is a big test; while Min (20/1, William Hill) has been campaigning over fences and a crack at the Champion Chase looks most likely for that one.

Yorkhill (12/1, William Hill) is an interesting contender if returning to hurdles, having disappointed over fences since winning the JLT Novices’ Chase here last term. The Presenting gelding is 2-2 at this venue, and while he has looked out of sorts over the larger obstacles, a return to hurdling and back at this venue could see him bounce back with a big performance. The Ryanair Chase and Champion Chase are both on his entries list however, so it remains to be seen where he will go.

Wicklow Brave (16/1, MarathonBet) beat My Tent Or Yours on his last hurdles start at Punchestown in April, and the Beat Hollow gelding has since acquitted himself with credit in a series of runs on the flat, although he came up well short in both the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup in later outings.

The nine-year old may lack the scope though to be competitive in this Grade One.

Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Arcenfete (100/1, Ladbrokes) and Identity Thief (66/1, Unibet) both face very stiff tasks if lining up; the latter finished sixth in this contest when Annie Power won the race in 2016, but he has been out of sort since winning a pair of chase contests back in October/November that year.

Having finished sixth behind Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle, he was beaten behind Forge Meadow in a Grade Three contest at Gowran Park in February. That form falls some way short of of what is required.

Arcenfete meanwhile has failed to beat a rival in two starts since arriving in Ireland from France, including when last of six in that Gowran Park contest.

Mick Jazz (33/1, Unibet) looks set to be Gordon Elliott’s sole runner in the race, with Apple’s Jade heading to the Mares’ Hurdle; the Blue Bresil gelding took advantage of falls to win the Ryanair Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, but he had no answer to Supasundae next time back there in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson can land the Champion Hurdle
Nicky Henderson can win another Champion Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson’s defending champion BUVEUR D’AIR (4/7, Paddy Power) looks hard to oppose as he bids to follow up his win in the race twelve months ago.

The Crillon gelding is unbeaten over hurdles since finishing third to stablemate Altior in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and he has racked up nine successive wins since, including when beating another of his stablemates in My Tent Or Yours to land this prize last term.

Henderson’s star had the same rival behind at Aintree in April, and having returned to action with a bloodless win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, he has since posted further wins at Kempton and Sandown.

A strong traveller who jumps well, he looks sure to mount a strong defence of his crown, and his rivals will need to be at their best to topple him.

Stablemate My Tent Or Yours (10/1, Paddy Power) has an excellent record in this race, three-times finishing runner-up, and the eleven-year old Desert Prince gelding can give another good account having beaten The New One in the International Hurdle on his return from an eight-month absence.

His old injury which kept him off the track for 703 days looks to have robbed him of none of his ability given his results since, and he can post another big effort behind his more fancied stablemate; there are worse each-way shots in the Champion Hurdle field, and given his record in this race he could well make the podium again.

Henderson’s other potential runners, Verdana Blue (50/1, Ladbrokes), Call Me Lord (66/1, Unibet) and Charli Parcs (66/1, Paddy Power) are all very useful sorts in their own but their form falls some way below that required to win a Champion Hurdle, and they are hard to fancy.

The first named could go to the Mares’ Hurdle instead; while Call Me Lord holds an entry in the County Hurdle. That could be his target if he wins the Imperial Cup. Charlie Parcs meanwhile also has an entry in the County Hurdle, and the trio could well take up those other assignments rather than this Grade One.

Dan Skelton’s Ch’Tibello (33/1, William Hill) is held by a few of these on a line through The New One, having been beaten by that rival at Haydock two starts ago; subsequently runner-up again in the Kingwell Hurdle, he has plenty to find.

John Constable (50/1, Coral) meanwhile proved no match for Buveur D’air last time at Sandown, and Evan Williams’ charge faces a tough assignment; he had looked progressive previously until being well-beaten behind My Tent Or Yours here in the International Hurdle, and this will demand much more from him.


If Faugheen were to return to the sort of level that saw him win this race three years ago, then Willie Mullins would be sure to give defending champion BUVEUR D’AIR (4/7, Paddy Power) something to think about. However, with that one running poorly at Leopardstown over Christmas and then being turned over back there next time, his powers may be beginning to wane and the Crillon gelding can mount a successful title defence.

3-3 this term, Nicky Henderson’s charge impressed twelve months ago when taking this contest, and the seven year old could still have more improvement to come; he ought to prove hard to beat in his bid to hold onto his crown.

Stablemate My Tent Or Yours (10/1, Paddy Power) has finished runner-up in three Champion Hurdles, including last term when chasing home Buveur D’air. The Desert Prince gelding snapped a losing streak stretching back to February 2014 when scoring in the International Hurdle on his return in December, and a repeat of that effort ought to see him firmly in the race for places. 

He can reward each-way supporters with a big run, and he can bag another podium finish.

2018 CHAMPION HURDLE SELECTION - BUVEUR D’AIR (4/7, Paddy Power), My Tent Or Yours (10/1, Paddy Power)

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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.

Top Racing Offers

Expert Champion Hurdle Tips & Selections

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

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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