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.

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.