• Unibet Champion Hurdle

    HEADLINES

    Six favourites have won in the last ten
    Only 3 winners this century did not race at a previous Festival
    11 of the last 13 had already won a Grade 1
    Six of the last 12 ran in the Kempton Xmas Hurdle.
    Since 1984 only 6 winners were unplaced in any completed run that season
    Only one of the last 14 had run more than 12 times over hurdles
    11 of the last 12 won by either Irish trainers or Nicky Henderson.
    This century only 4 winners did not win their previous start.
    The last three mares to win were Annie Power '16, Flakey Dove '94, Dawn Run '84
    Last 13 had all won at least six NH races.
    Three of the last four mares to win started favourite.

    Summary

    Race Distance - 2 miles and abt half a furlong. Winner has been placed at least at a previous Festival or hasn't been there before. Aged between 6 and 9 years. Won last time out and over a trip not more than 2m 1f. Has won a Graded race this season, either on the flat or over jumps. Won’t have had last run in a handicap. Has not finished unplaced in any run this season. Was favourite or second favourite on previous run. Will have a total racing record of at least 10 runs with 6 wins or be unbeaten this season. Will have run no more than 12 times over hurdles. Has been out within the last 45 days or ran in G1 at Kempton Xmas. Bula/International double with this race is a collector's piece. Favourites on top recently. Has won a G1 or gone very very close. Not blinkered unless placed in previous Festival G1. Not beaten favourite last time out. Winner needs a seasonal prep run. Horses have come back from novice chase careers to win this. If a big field, look for strong graded form in big fields.

  • Honours Board

    Year |||Form |||Winner||| Age |||Weight||| OR |||SP||| Trainer |||Jockey||| Runners||| Last race (No of days)

    2020||| 111||| Epatante |||6 |||11-3 |||159 |||2/1F |||N Henderson |||B Geraghty |||17||| Ist G1 Kempton Xmas Hdle (75)

    2019 |||111||| Espoir d'Allen||| 5||| 11-10 |||162||| 16/1 |||G Cromwell(IRE)||| M Walsh||| 10 |||1st G3 Naas (44)

    2018||| 111||| Buveur d'Air||| 7||| 11-10||| 169 |||4/6F |||N Henderson||| B Geraghty |||11 |||1st Listed Sandown (38)

    2017 |||111||| Buveur d'Air||| 6 |||11-10||| 157||| 5/1 ||| N Henderson||| N Fehily |||11||| 1st Listed Sandown (38)

    2016 |||11||| Annie Power||| 8||| 11-3||| 162||| 5/2F |||W Mullins(IRE) |||R Walsh||| 12 |||1st 12k Pnchstwn Mares 2m 4f (27)

    2015 |||111||| Faugheen||| 7||| 11-10||| 169||| 4/5F||| W Mullins(IRE)||| R Walsh |||8||| 1st G1 Kempton Xmas Hdle (74)

    2014 |||1124||| Jezki |||6 |||11-10||| 165||| 9/1 |||J Harrington(IRE) |||B Geraghty||| 9 |||4th G1 Leop Irish Champion (44)

    2013||| 111 |||Hurricane Fly |||9||| 11-10||| 172 |||13/8F||| W Mulllins(IRE) |||R Walsh |||9||| 1st G1 Irish Champion Hdle (44)

    2012 |||12 |||Rock On Ruby |||7 |||11-10||| 165||| 11/1 |||P Nicholls |||N Fehily||| 10 |||2nd G1 Kempton Xmas Hdle (78)

    2011 |||111 |||Hurricane Fly||| 7 |||11-10||| 167 |||11/4F||| W Mullins(IRE)||| R Walsh||| 11 |||1st G1 Leop Irish Champion Hdle (51)

    Evidence

    FIVE MARES have won this in 90 years, Epatante joins Annie Power to be the first since Flakey Dove '94, Dawn Run '84. Epatante was the first to run since Annie Power. Both were favourites 2/1 and 5/2 and the first mare favourites since Dawn Run Evens in 1984 (the final leg of a short priced Gault treble that day. One rarely remember the losers). 16 mares have run in Champion Hurdles between 1994 and 2020, only four with an SP under 10/1 Only Bilboa 14/1 2002 got placed as a five yr old. If my memory serves me correctly, she was only placed because of tragedy befalling Valiramix.

     

    AGE - 5 yr olds

     

    2020 - 3 ran, Pentland Hills, Fusil Raffles, Coeur Sublime. Out with the washing.

     

    2019 - The race seemed to fall into a hole with the three big contenders underperforming. Nothing, however, should be taken away from the performance of the ill fated Espoir D'Allen who bolted up by 15l at 16/1 under a fine patient ride by Mark Walsh. Well done Tom Segal Antepost 25s. Remember looking at Betfair just before the off, Espoir was 25s and even after being present at Naas for his previous win, I thought naw, he can't... Only 5 yr old in the field.

     

    FIVE YR OLDS IN PREVIOUS YEARS - 2018, Charlie Parcs, a pointless frontrunner PU. 2017, Footpad 4th, Sceau Royal 6th, 2016 4 ran best Top Notch in 5th. 2015 two outsiders outclassed, 2014 Our Conor 5s tragically fell, Petit Zig 6th at 28s. 2013 Countrywide Flame 3rd (16s) Balder Success (UR). Before Katchit, only Persian War, Night Nurse and See You Then won as 5 yr olds.

     

    To summarise, all 73 five yr olds since '85 were beaten, until 2008. Before Espoir D'Allen six of the previous 28 to try, have been placed. Apart from Binocular (2nd in Supreme) the other five finished in the first 4 in the previous year's Triumph. Pentland Hills, Coeur Sublime did little for the honour of the 2019 Triumph. Since Detroit City '06, the winner of the Triumph has run 7 times in the following year's Champion Hurdle finishing 1/2/3/5/3/F/Last/9th.

     

    Katchit and Persian War '68 only two Triumph winners to win this the following year. See You Then was only second in the Triumph '84.
    Espoir D'Allen, through injury, didn't make the Triumph in 2018. The 2007 Triumph with Katchit winning by 9l and Punjabi in 4th is the only one that has ever featured two Champion Hurdle winners. Thank you, @barrydillon79. A cracking stat.

     

    Last years Triumph form - Goshen etc. Apples Jade, Footpad, Lets Dance, Sceau Royal, Who Dares Wins, Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon came from the 2016 vintage. Like 2017, Defi Du Seuil's year, 2018 was not particularly exciting, 2019 even less so.

    Penhill, Faugheen, Katchit in 2008, Istabraq and Hardy Eustace are the only winners of Festival novice hurdles since 1984 to have returned to Cheltenham and won any hurdle race the following year. Burning Victory, Envoi Allen.

      

    Since 1992, 8 novices competed in this. None of them were five year olds. Ex Flat runners Royal Gait, Alderbrook and Make A Stand all won, Rhinestone Cowboy was 3rd, Ashley Park and Self Defense 4th. (None ran in last 11 yrs though Darvers Star was close to a novice).

    OLDER HORSES - Hurricane Fly was the first since Rooster Booster winner ‘03 to win at aged 9 yrs. Faugheen unplaced 2018 as a 10 yr old. One before that Royal Gait in 1992. This century, four eight year olds and two nine years old have won. Three of the six were returning to win it again. Only 4 winners older than 8 since 1951. To summarise, since 2003 all bar the Fly 2013 aged between 6 and 8 years.

    Sea Pigeon '81, last 11 yr old to win Champion Hurdle. One before that was Hatton's Grace '51. Both also won it as 10yr olds. Three elder statesmen ran last year, closest was Petit Mouchoir in 5th.

     

    REGAINING CROWN - Hurricane Fly 2013 and Comedy Of Errors in 1975 only ones to regain. The Fly won 22 Grade 1s, three in his final season beating the current champion on each occasion. Up with the greatest 2 mile hurdlers there have ever been, if not the best. Buveur D'Air

     

    Since 1990 (and unlike the Gold Cup), 8 winners of this had been beaten in the previous year's renewal. Sharjah, Darvers Star.

    TRAINERS - Irish Trained - 13 winners from the last 22 and six of the last ten. Fighting with the Supreme to be the best performing race in the Festival for Irish trained winners. Epatante, Buveur D'Air (twice), Rock On Ruby, Punjabi, Binocular, Katchit, Hors La Loi and Rooster Booster since ’97 have won for the home team. Before Hurricane Fly nothing Irish placed in years '08 - '10. Honeysuckle, Sharjah, Petit Mouchoir, Darvers Star et al.
     
    Irish Champion Hurdle - Brave Inca 2006, Hurricane Fly 2011 and 2013 the latest to do the double. Istabaq and Theatreworld. Placed horses in 2020 came from the Irish Champion. Four mares have won the Irish Champion Hurdle, only Dawn Run has done the double. Honeysuckle took a different option last year.
     
    Leopardstown 2017 Petit Mouchoir beatt Footpad in 3mins 41 secs, best course time of the day, finished third and fourth at Cheltenham). 2018 Supasundae went from Leopardstown to be second in Stayers. Apples Jade disappointed 2019.
     
    Darvers Star 20/1 second to Honeysuckle last year rekindled an old stat of novices running well in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Those like Finnegans Hollow, His Song (1 and a half lengths second to Istabraq '98) didn't tend to totally reproduce it next time. But he wasn't far away.
     
    GERRY FIELDEN hurdle at Newbury won by Epatante off a 137 rating. Rock On Ruby won the Champion Hurdle the year after winning at Newbury. Large Action did the double in 1994 having already finished third in a Ch Hurdle in '93. In those days the Gerry Fielden was a race of note. Used to be a G2 and not a limited handicap.
     
    JOCKEYS - Reference Mr P Mullins fine ride in second on Sharjah last year, no amateur jockey has won this since Mr Colm Magnier of For Auction in 1982. To be fair to Patrick, I'm not sure Colm had similar experience of riding in so many G1s or Festival races. Top jockeys in this would be Barry, Ruby and Tim Moloney all on four wins. Barry the only jockey to win on 4 different horses, Punjabi, Jezki, Buveur D'Air and Epatante. Ruby won on The Fly twice, Faugheen and Annie Power. Tim's were on Hatton's Grace and all three of Sir Ken's.


    M/D Pipe - two winners and two thirds from their 8 runners that started under 16/1 (‘08 Osana 2nd at 9/2). Nothing good enough to compete for at least a decade. Moon Racer 10/1 PU 2017. No Northern trained winner for 35 years.

     

    N Henderson leads Peter Easterby eight wins to five. Epatante, Pentland Hills, Call Me Lord, Verdana Blue. The last eight winners were trained either by Nicky Henderson or Irish trainers.

    Last years Champion Hurdle - Epatante, the best horse in the race on ratings beat Sharjah the only other horse rated in the 160s, with the improver Darvers Star in third. You would be surprised if any of those behind would ever count again in this race. In the last 21, 10 winners ran in the previous year's race. No winner was unplaced in last years race since Fakey Dove 1994 (hard to believe, but that mare ran 11 times flat and hurdles between Champion Hurdles). Sharjah was BD by the fall of Buveur D'Air in 2019.


    BETFAIR HURDLE/TOTE GOLD TROPHY - Make A Stand 1997 only winner in the last 40 plus yrs to have its last race before Cheltenham in a handicap. Make A Stand joined Persian War '68 as the only winners of both in the same season. Persian War then won the second of his three Ch Hurdles in '69. Last Betfair Hurdle winner to run in this was Zarkardar in 2012 who went on to finish 5th at 9/1 to Rock on Ruby at Cheltenham. Last Betfair/Tote Gold Trophy winner to run in this 13 months later was '03 Copeland 25/1 allegedly 'every chance when fell 3 out' in Rooster's year. Every chance, I must have been watching a different race. In '94 Flakey Dove finished 3rd at Newbury then won here. Pic D'Orphy now rated 152 after hard earned Newbury success last year.

     

    INTERNATIONAL/BULA HURDLE - Rooster Booster ’03 first Bula/Champion Hurdle double since Comedy Of Errors ’74. Since 1987 19 winners of the 'Bula' have attempted the double. Apart from Rooster, Valiramix probably was going to win here before the tragedy happened. 4 have finished 2nd (including three of the last seven), one was third, one fell and the rest were unplaced (including The New One in 2014, unlucky). Rooster is the only one of the 18 who had won at the Festival in the previous year. In 2017 My Tent Or Yours bt The New One, the reverse of the 2016 result. Neither turned up here. 2018 Melon finished third in the International before chasing Buveur D'Air home in March. Last year's Bula winner Call Me Lord started 10/1 for this. I believe it took a while to find him. Darryl In Green even got off him for some other unplaced Munir beast.
     

    Rooster Booster only horse to do County Hurdle then Champion Hurdle (2003). Rooster came here on the back of 4 wins including Bula. Arctic Fire was beaten in the County off 141 then finished second to Faugheen. Saint Roi

     

    Buveur D'Air liked to stroll round the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown. Quel Destin didn't come here last year.

     

    Hardy Eustace 2005 last winner to come from success in the Red Mills Hurdle. Cilaos Emery, supplemented for £22k, got their money back in fourth.

     

    SUPREME NOVICES ‘19 - 2020 Abacadabras from Shiskin. The 2019 version was not a classic compared to the 2016 vintage. Klassical Dream inj. 2018 nine finished in a heap in a bog. The best in that field would have been Sharjah, who to his credit won a Galway Hurdle off top weight, a Morgiana and two Ryanairs, the last two both G1s. Compare 2016. Altior, Min, Buveur D'Air 3rd. First 11 home have all won decent races. Some have said that even the ambulance has been placed since. Very much a rival to the vintage of 2013.
     

    NEPTUNE NOVICE HURDLE - Envoi Allen from Easywork and The Big Getaway. Nothing came from 2019 City Island beating Champ. In 2014 Faugheen won the Neptune by 4 1/2 lengths. Only one since Hardy Eustace '04 and Istabraq '98 to do the double. Danoli, French Holly, Peddlers Cross and The New One all placed in the Champion the year after winning Neptune. Rock On Ruby won the 2 mile championship the year after his sh hd defeat in the Neptune. It is said that the Neptune is a better guide than the Supreme to Champion Hurdle contenders however Yanworth 2nd to Yorkhill in 2016 is the last horse who ran in a Neptune to come anyway near in this race (fav and 7th). Nichols Canyon had been 3rd in each.

     

    Times - Epatante's time of 4 mins 7, showed how heavy it actually was. It was the second slowest time this century, after Katchit's 4 mins 8 , but still one second faster than Shishkin an hour earlier. 2019 - Espoir's 3 mins 59 was pretty good for tacky ground. Similar time to Klassical Dream's Supreme. 2018 - Buveur's 4 mins 5 was on heavy going. In the fastest Champion Hurdle time of the last decade or so, 3 mins 45.1 secs, Annie Power 2016 went round one second faster than Altior had done an hour earlier in the Supreme. In contrast Buveur D'Air's first Champion Hurdle at 3.50 was 5 seconds slower than Annie power's but three seconds faster than Labaik's Supreme. In 2015 3 mins 47secs in goodish ground, Douvan's 2015 Supreme was 3 secs faster than Faugheen 2 hrs later in the Champion Hurdle. In 2014 Champagne Fever timed in 3 mins 46 secs in goodish ground, one second slower than Jezki. Novices carry 3lb less.

     

    Fastest times this season -

    Ryanair Hurdle,

    Epatante 3 mins 55 secs Kempton, soft, at Christmas,

    Ballyandy 3 mins 55 Haydock over half a furlong short of two miles.

    Bula

    Irish Champion Hurdle check.

     

    Bula '71 only horse ever to do Supreme/Champion double in consecutive years. Browne's Gazette '85 should... (its ok now, days go by and I hardly ever think of it, my Doug Saunders moment in 1985, the self taught lesson in trying to buy money. On reflection, probably one of my best ever bets). Hors La Loi and Brave Inca did win both but not in consecutive years. Since '84, only 10 have tried and only the Gazette, Like A Butterfly and Go Native (all unplaced) came to the Champion Hurdle on the back of a G1 success. Klassical Dream inj. However Jezki and Buveur D'Air both placed in Supreme before winning this the next year. My Tent Or Yours 2nd in both races in consecutive years. Shishin

     

    Only Hardy Eustace and Granville Again have won a Champion Hurdle after losing their last three starts.
     
    Last year's 17 runners was the first one in 11 to have more than 12 runners. Punjabi beat 22 others in 2009. In 2009 the 1-2-3 Punjabi, Celestial Halo and Binocular had strong form in big graded fields. Epatants had beaten a field of 12 before and is not a frontrunner.

     

    Epatante, Buveur D'Air and Faugheen have joined Kribensis ’90 of the last 28 Kempton Xmas Hurdle winners to come to complete the Champion double.

    Up to the introduction of the WBX Million Bonus in '08 it was true to say that anything involved in the Fighting Fifth/Kempton Hurdles had little chance here. Even though the bonus no longer exists the Fighting Fifth now does tend to attract a stronger lineup. Buveur D'Air cantered home 2017 and 2018, in 2018 when only second favourite to Samcro. In 9 of the last 12 years something at least was placed in the Champion which featured at Newcastle. Petit Mouchoir fell 2016 at Newcastle when in contention. 4 winners, 4 seconds and a third. 2015 Arctic Fire 3rd at Newcastle, 2nd here. My Tent or Yours 2nd 2014, Countrywide Flame 3rd 2013, Overturn 2nd 2012, Peddlers Cross 2nd all after winning the Fighting Fifth. Buveur D'Air and Punjabi only ones to do the double. Binocular and Katchit both won Champion Hurdles after being beaten at Newcastle. Cornerstone Lad and Silver Streak outclassed last year.

     

    No horse has won this without having a prep run that season.

     

    Buveur D'Air, Beech Road 1989 and Morley Road 1991 gave up novice chase careers that season to return to hurdles and win this. All three won trial hurdles between novice chase career and Champion Hurdle. Cilaos Emery, 4th, gave it a fair stab last year.


    All bar Epatante, Faugheen and Rock On Ruby of the last 24 winners seen out since the Saturday before AIG Irish Champion Hurdle (26th January - 44 days). All bar those three of the last 24 and 30 from last 35 winners all ran since Jan 1. Those three are the first since Granville Again to come straight from the Christmas Hurdle. Even in 2014 N Henderson brought out My Tent Or Yours to win a February jumpers bumper at Kempton to 'try and get the freshness off him'. Nicky may know his stats but Willie doesn't seem to care for them.
     

    Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton has a reasonable record if not recently. Kribensis '90, Alderbrook '95 won both and Punjabi was third in '09 before Cheltenham. Of the last 16 winners of the Kingwell, 12 went onto the Champion Hurdle. Hors la Loi '02 and Katchit both won, 3 others were placed. Yanworth unpl 2017. Elgin finished 5th in the 2018 Champion. Last year Quel Destin tried his luck at Fontwell instead. No Kingwell runner up in the last 18 years has gone on to win at Cheltenham that year. And Call me Lord didn't.

    COURSE FORM - 21 of the last 30 were previous course winners. Not Epatante, a short priced failure in the 2019 Mares Novice. Not Buveur D'Air (obviously first time) nor Jezki (both 3rd in Supreme), Rock On Ruby (2nd in Neptune), not Binocular (had been 2nd in Supreme Novice and Ch Hurdle), Punjabi (had been 3rd in '08 Champion), Sublimity (4th in a Supreme Novice), Make A Stand (had been beaten in a h'cap). Espoir D'Allen, Royal Gait and Alderbrook had never been here before. The latter two were both Group 2 Flat winners. Hurricane Fly also not been here before his first win. Came here on the back of beating Solwhit in 4 successive G1s. Those sired by Montjeu wouldn't get up the hill, they said.

     

    No Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner has ever been placed in a Champion Hurdle. Ferny Hollow
      
    18 of the last 22 were placed at a previous Festival. 12 from the last 22 were previous Festival winners. (Buveur D'Air, Faugheen, Fly, Istabraq three times, Hardy Eustace twice, Rooster Booster, Brave Inca, Hors La Loi and Katchit. Not Annie Power although she would have gone close in the 2015 Mares).

    31 of last 37 won on most recent start, including all bar Jezki and Rock On Ruby of the last eleven. Exceptions being Celtic Shot ’88, 2nd in an Agfa Hurdle, Granville Again ’93, 3rd in a Christmas Hurdle, Hardy Eustace ‘04 2nd in a Red Mills, Punjabi 3rd in a Kingwell, Rock On Ruby 2nd in Xmas Hurdle, Jezki last in the 2014 AIG. All the wins last time were over 2m or 2m1f.

    29 from last 32 were favourite or second favourite last time out.

     

    All bar Espoir D'Allen, Rock On Ruby and Sublimity of the past 15 had yet to win a Grade 1.

    All bar Epatante, Espoir D'Allen, Buveur D'Air, Annie Power, Faugheen, Jezki, Rock On Ruby and Hardy Eustace of the last 21 winners had run at least 18 times (Flat and Jumps combined) and had won at least 6 times (includes Sublimity). That's 8 exceptions and this is no longer a stat. Epatante 8 runs, 6 wins, Espoir D'Allen 9 runs, 8 wins. Buveur D'Air 15 runs, 12 wins. Annie Power was 15 runs, 13 wins, Faugheen was unbeaten over 9 races, Jezki was 14 and 9, Rock On was 10 and 6, Hardy was 15 and 5 in ‘04. Hurricane Fly was 21 and 11 in 2011, Binocular was 18 and 11 in 2010. Against all that, only Hurricane Fly (second time) of the last 14 had run more than 12 times over hurdles.

    19 from last 24 (not Epatante (5), Buveur D'Air (6), Faugheen (7), Rock On Ruby nor Sublimity) had run between 9 and 25 times over hurdles.

    19 of last 24 had previously won a Grade I hurdle. Espoir D'Allen only a G3 winner, Rock On Ruby short head 2nd in a Neptune. Rooster Booster came here from winning the Bula G2, Make A Stand from the G3 Tote Gold Trophy. 18 from the last 24 had won a Grade I or 2 Hurdle that season. Annie won a G1 at the Punchestown Festival. Sublimity broke both these stats but was a listed Flat winner. Buveur D'Air first time round only won a Contenders Listed Hurdle at Sandown.

    Since 1984 only 6 winners were unplaced in any completed run that season. (Jezki most recent, Binocular 5th in a Fighting Fifth). Only Jezki, Punjabi and Binocular of last 15 unplaced in any of previous 2 runs (latter two in Kempton Xmas Hurdle, Punjabi fell when challenging). Buveur D'Air second of four at Kempton.
     

    Faugheen only winner since at least 1993 started his racing career in a 4 yr old Irish p2p. To be fair can't think of any other runners from that route. Epatante from French bumpers.


    HEADGEAR - Blinkered runners in last 15 races - 3 wins (Hardy Eustace, great rides from C O'Dwyer, Jezki never in blinkers but straight to first time hood) and 7 placed from 4. My Tent always wears a hood. Rock On Ruby won without blinkers but wore them for the first time when second to the Fly in 2013. Four ran last year, best Cilaos Emery in 4th. Two qualifiers in 2019, best Melon 2nd in first time blinkers. Mick Jazz 3rd 2018 in a hood.

    Record of previous years winner P11PR213246932441F. Hardy Eustace 2005 last before Buveur D'Air to win two in a row. Epatante.

     

    Punjabi in 2009 only winner this century having been beaten favourite last time out. The three Henderson second-stringers last year Pentland Hills, Call Me Lord and Fusil Raffles disappointed again. Only Silver Streak in 2019, third at 80/1.

    PRICE - 24 of the last 28 winners found in first five in the market. Espoir returned 16s was fourth fav of 10. Not Sublimity, Hardy Eustace ‘04, Punjabi or Binocular. You would expect that. Six favourites have won in the last ten. Possibly too many, for my liking.

     

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Wealth Warning.  Any decisions made (or not) or the basis of any information in this site are the sole responsibility of the reader.  There is no obligation on me to follow my own advice.  I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors.  (Bgault01@gmail.com, @gaultstats). Previous years ‘stats on stats’ would suggest we may identify a decent priced winner from manageable groups every three or four races.  It is believed that Savello (2014 Grand Annual) took from Golden Chieftain (2013 3m hcap chase) the record for breaking the most stats in a race.  Stands now at 8.  Cole Harden equalised with 8 in the 2015 World Hurdle.  Remember, after you have cursed/laughed at me and given up totally on trends, they will come back to bite.  Always happens.  Usually on Gold Cup Day. 

Beware GO SEA - Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol.  A Cotswold condition very common at this time of year.