Champion Hurdle Facts

The Champion Hurdle, the premier hurdle championship in the UK was inaugurated in 1927, with a value to the winner of £365. It has been run ever-since with he exception of 1931 when the race was abandoned due to persistent frost, in 1943 and 1944 because of the Second World War, and in 2001 because of foot and mouth disease.

There has only ever been two sponsors of this race since its inception. This statistic conceals a dramatic turn of events in 1990, when a major banking group, whose intended sponsorship was to raise the added value of the race by 66 per cent to £120,000, withdrew before its first running. The Smurfit Group stepped in at that point and has remained a loyal sponsor ever since. In 2009, the race will have total prize money of £370,000. Kappa was added to the title in 2006 to reflect the company’s new corporate image and identity.

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The largest field has been twenty four and the smallest field was just three in 1932. The first five runnings of the race saw a total of only 24 runners between them. The current limit is 28.

The Champion Hurdle is a contest for multiple winners. Peter Easterby won the race most often as a trainer, with five victories from three horses, Saucy Kit (1967), Night Nurse (1976 and 1977) and Sea Pigeon (1980 and 1981). Vic Smyth and Fred Winter both had four wins, and a further five trainers have captured the hurdling crown on three occasions.

Among the jockeys, Tim Molony won the race most often with four victories, on Hatton’s Grace (1951) and Sir Ken (1952, 1953 & 1954). Fred Winter, Jimmy Uttley, Steve Smith Eccles and most recently Charlie Swan have all won the race three times.

The most successful owner is still Dorothy Paget, who won the race four times thanks to Insurance (1932, 1933), Solford (1940) and Distel (1946).

Istabraq, who won the race three times 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).

The race has been won onmly twice by mares - Dawn Run in 1984, who also went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Flakey Dove in 1994.

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Four greys have won, the most recent being Rooster Booster in 2003. The others were Kribensis in 1990, Victor Norman in 1936, and Our Hope in 1938. Only one roan horse has won the Champion Hurdle that was Anzio in 1962.

Istabraq’s success in 2000 in a time of 3 minutes 48.1 seconds is the fastest ever recorded time for the race.

Irish trainer, Dessie Hughes, who trained Hardy Eustace to win in 2004 and 2005, is only the fourth person to have both ridden and trained a Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle winner – he rode Monksfield to victory in 1979. The others to have achieved this double were Fred Winter, Fred Rimell and Gerry Wilson.