Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Champion Hurdle History

Alongside the Cheltenham Gold Cup this is one of the most prestigious races of the entire National Hunt season and the jewel in the crown of the first day of the Cheltenham Festival. First run in 1927 just three years after the initial running of what we would now know as the Gold Cup it attracts the very best 2m hurdlers from Britain and Ireland to compete for the title of Champion Hurdler.

The roll of honour for the race reads like a who's who of hurdling history and you would have been happy to have owned or even just seen in action the five horses who have taken the crown on a record three occasions, the first of those was Hatton's Grace (1949-51) and the most recent was Istabraq (1998-2000). Istabraq would have more than likely completed the four-timer as he was favourite for the race and with it at his mercy when the 2001 Festival was abandoned due to foot and mouth disease, his bid for that record a year later ended with him being pulled up after only jumping a couple of hurdles and he was immediately retired. Those placing Cheltenham 2012 bets should remember this.

The "Golden Age" of the race came without doubt came during the 1970's and early 80's, when there were several dual winners and plenty of famous names on the hurdling circuit such as Monksfield, Sea Pigeon and Night Nurse, all of whom had many exciting battles up the Cheltenham hill. People following the Cheltenham betting need to bear this in mind.

Dawn Run remains the only horse to have won the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup, in the year she won the Champion Hurdle (1984), she was also triumphant in the Irish and French equivalents in the same year, she is also one of 17 Irish trained winners and their Hurricane Fly looks well placed to make that 18 this year.

The Champion Hurdle is usually run at a flat-out gallop and all combatants need to possess a blend of speed to carry them into the race and stamina to see them up the stiff Cheltenham Hill.

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