Champion Hurdle – Expert Tips & Predictions
The Champion Hurdle is the first of the four feature races at the Cheltenham Festival. The fourth race on Tuesday’s card, it is run over eight flights and two miles of Cheltenham’s turf, the same course and conditions as the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Our experts have left no stone unturned to provide the most in-depth analysis of the race alongside all our tips.
Champion Hurdle Bookmaker Odds – Race 4, Tuesday 14th March 3:30
|Constitution Hill |
|J: Nico de Boinville |
T: Nicky Henderson
|State Man |
|J: Paul Townend |
|J: Danny Mullins |
T: Willie Mullins
|I Like To Move It |
|J: Sam Twiston-Davies |
T: Nigel Twiston-Davies
|J: Davy Russell |
T: Gordon Elliott
|Jason The Militant |
|J: Joe Williamson |
T: Philip Kirby
|Not So Sleepy |
|J: Jonathan Burke |
All About The Unibet Champion Hurdle in 2023
Open to horses of ages four and upwards, the Champion Hurdle is the ultimate hurdling prize. A slick, graceful, speedy hurdler is one of the enjoyable sights in racing and some of the most celebrated horses in National Hunt history have laid claim to the trophy.
This year’s renewal revolves around one sensational horse, Constitution Hill. Nicky Henderson’s stable star has won all five races over hurdles, including bolting up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival last year. He has finished a minimum of 12 lengths clear in all five hurdle victories and will go off a short odds favourite, with many seeing him as the banker of the whole Festival.
Willie Mullins hasn’t won the race since Annie Power won in 2016, but State Man could give him a serious chance of landing the honours this year. He will have to beat the imperious Constitution Hill, but he’s only tasted defeat once in his career, when falling on hurdles debut. Since then, he’s won all six races, including a win at the Festival last year and four Grade 1’s.
Honeysuckle has won the last two renewals and could become the first horse since the legendary Istabraq to win three successive Champion Hurdles. However, Henry De Bromhead’s star mare was soundly beaten by State Man last time out and connections are leaning towards the Mares’ Hurdle with her this season.
Vauban and Sharjah have both chased home State Man in their last two races but they do give trainer Willie Mullins extra ammunition to take on Constitution Hill with. The former won the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival last year, so could put that course experience to good use.
Nicky Henderson may also opt to send another horse here with First Street, who was just behind State Man in the County Hurdle at the Festival last year. He followed that up with a fifth-placed finish behind Jonbon in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, and considering Constitution Hill beat Jonbon by 22 lengths, he will have to put up a special performance to beat his stablemate.
Champion Hurdle Qualifications/Trends
The Champion Hurdle is open to four-year-olds and upwards, but the diversity of races at the modern Festival has ensured no runner of that youngest age group in the last 25 years (and no winner since 1942).
Favourites have won the race in seven of the last ten years, with Honeysuckle extending that trend again last season. Honeysuckle’s jockey Rachael Blackmore made history in many ways in 2021, one of which was becoming the first female jockey to win this.
Mares also have an outstanding record in this race in recent years, comprising four of the last seven winners. In between Annie Power and Epatante’s victories, both Apple’s Jade and Laurina started at short odds as well. It’s a division they have excelled in.
No age has a particular advantage over another, but only Katchit and Espoir D’Allen have won as five-year-olds since 1985, while no horse aged into double figures has won since Sea Pigeon won as an 11-year-old in 1981 (he also won at the age of 10 in 1980).
Honeysuckle’s owner, Kenneth Alexander, also broke a growing duopoly in the Champion Hurdle. Until 2021, the previous seven runnings had been won either by the pink and green spots of Rich and Susanna Ricci, or the royal green and gold of J.P. McManus. Indeed, McManus had won the previous four courtesy of Buveur D’Air, Espoir D’Allen and Epatanate and will be as hungry as ever for his colours to be carried up the hill in front.
Prize Money in 2023
last year’s winner Honeysuckle saw connections shared just over £25o,000 for themselves.
The total prize pot for the 2023 renewal is £450,000.
Champion Hurdle History
The Champion Hurdle’s inaugural running was in 1927 and comprised a mere four runners. Ironically, in this age where we moan about small fields, no Champion Hurdle field was greater than six until 1935.
The Gold Cup and Grand National’s prominence often overshadowed the hurdling scene, which did not really take off until the post-war years. Talented horses such as Brown Jack and Insurance won it prior to 1939, but the latter’s owner, Miss Dorothy Paget was possibly more distracted by her brilliant five-time Gold Cup winner Golden Miller racing at the same time.
Two horses were especially responsible for the Champion Hurdle’s growing popularity. For six years between 1949 and 1954 only two horses won the race: both Hatton’s Grace and Sir Ken rattled off hat-tricks in the race, the former being an early star for Vincent O’Brien before that family began its dynasty on the flat.
Of all the championship races, the Champion Hurdle has the greatest history of repeat winners. A run from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, all of Persian War, Bula, Comedy Of Errors, Night Nurse, Monksfield and Sea Pigeon all won the race at least twice (the first-named three times). The era is often seen as the “Golden Age” of hurdlers.
Of all the debates as to who is the greatest, the battle for supremacy in the Champion Hurdle’s roll call is perhaps the most competitive. Any one of the Golden Age sextet would be worthy of that mantle, though just a few years later, Dawn Run won the race. That came in 1984, two years before she became the first and only horse to win both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup.
Many would point to Istabraq as the best ever. His three successive wins came in serene style, and he was probably denied a fourth due to the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.
13 years later, Hurricane Fly regained his Champion Hurdle crown. His two Festival successes were among a scarcely believable 22 Grade 1 wins throughout his career, the most by any horse in history. Staunch fans of the horse would never hear different.
And most recently Honeysuckle added her name to the two-time winners list. Having won the last two renewals, she looks unlikely to bid for the hat-trick, with connections leaning towards the Mares’ Hurdle this year.
Winners since 2000
|2002||Hors La Loi III||J:Dean Gallagher|
|2003||Rooster Booster||J:Richard Johnson|
|2004||Hardy Eustace||J:Conor O’Dwyer|
|2005||Hardy Eustace||J:Conor O’Dwyer|
|2006||Brave Inca||J:Tony McCoy|
|2007||Sublimity|| J:Philip Carberry|
|2011||Hurricane Fly||J:Ruby Walsh|
|2012||Rock On Ruby||J:Noel Fehily|
|2013||Hurricane Fly||J:Ruby Walsh|
|2016||Annie Power|| J:Ruby Walsh|
|2017||Buveur D’Air||J:Noel Fehily|
|2018||Buveur D’Air||J:Barry Geraghty|
|2019||Espoir d’Allen||J:Mark Walsh|
T:Henry De Bromhead
T:Henry De Bromhead