The first day of Cheltenham is one of the most exciting on the racing calendar as the start of the action is marked by the famous Cheltenham roar. Thousands travel from all over the world and millions are wagered across the four days.
The highlight of Day One is undoubtedly the 90-year-old Champion Hurdle – the jewel in National Hunt calendar. This Grade 1 race for four-year-olds and over forms part of the Triple Crown of Hurdling along with Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle. The race features eight fences and is run left-handed over a distance of 2m 87 yards.
Back in 1989/90, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained gelding Kribensis became the only horse ever to win the Triple Crown; however, he only ever one Champions Hurdle.
Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq were all three-time winners of the Champions Hurdle. Istabraq was favourite to win a fourth before the 2001 event was cancelled due to a nationwide outbreak of foot and mouth disease. He returned in 2002, but pulled up with muscle problems after just two fences.
Top trainers and jockeys
Tim Molony (on Hatton’s Grace in 1951 and Sir Ken in 1952, 1953 and 1954) and Ruby Walsh (on Hurricane Fly in 2011 and 2013, Faugheen in 2015 and Annie Power in 2016) are the only two jockeys to have won the race on four occasions.
Nicky Henderson has trained the most winners with seven overall. He claimed consecutive wins with See You Then in 1985, 1986 and 1987, but had to wait until 2009 for his next winner, Punjabi. He triumphed again the following year with Binocular and won the last two renewals with this year’s favourite Buveur D’Air.
2019 Champion Hurdle preview & tips
Those looking for Champion Hurdle 2019 tips could do worse than look at 2017 and 2018 winner Buveur d’Air. The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old is aiming to become the sixth horse to win the event three times, extending Henderson’s tally to eight wins in the process.
With preparations well on track, the dual winner is priced at 2/1 to chalk up a historic hat-trick in March. He impressed when returning to action in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle to record an 11th straight win. He followed that with a second place by a short head at Kempton, but can be forgiven for making a rare mistake three out. With seven Grade 1 wins in his last 13 races, Buveur d’Air still looks the pick of the bunch.
For those looking for an each-way option, Melon is worth a look. A couple of mistakes hampered his progress in recent runs at Leopardstown, but the seven-year-old was second by a neck in this event last year and is expected to come on from recent outings. With prices as high as 20/1 available, he looks to be the prime each-way pick.