Champion Hurdle Stats and Trends

As we move into the new year, the countdown to the magnificent Cheltenham Festival is well and truly on. Not only have most of the trial contests now taken place, but this is the time of year when bookmakers begin to offer Non-Runner Money Back on the 28 contests on offer over those four magical March afternoons.

Many punters need no further excuse to take a look at the Ante Post markets for the meeting, and it is the 14 Grade 1 contests which attract the most attention – headlined by the four Championship level events of the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle, and the Gold Cup.

First run in 1927, the Champion Hurdle acts as the centrepiece on a sizzling opening day, as the best of the best two-milers tackle eight hurdles at breathtaking speed. A place in the history books and the lion’s share of the £450,000 (2023) total prize money on offer awaits the winner in the most anticipated race of its type on the jumps racing calendar.

Boasting a roll of honour peppered with legendary names, including Bula, Night Nurse, Sea Pigeon, Sea You Then, and Istabraq, the Champion Hurdle invariably attracts a glittering field and acts as one of the biggest betting heats on the Tuesday at Prestbury Park. Here, we look back at the first 23 editions of the race from the current century (no race in 2001 due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak) and pick out a selection of stats and trends which may assist in identifying the likely winner.

Age Trends – 2000 to 2023

Champion Hurdle Age of Winner

Whilst open to all runners aged four and older, none so young have come home in front since Forestation back in 1942. At the other end of the spectrum, the 11-year-olds Hatton’s Grace (1951) and Sea Pigeon (1981) are the oldest winners in the history of the race. No such extremes have been in evidence in the current century, with all 23 winners being between five and nine years of age. Six to eight-year-olds have fared best, with 19 of 23 winners (82.61%) falling into this bracket.

Trainer Stats – 2000 to 2023

Champion Hurdle Top Trainer

Only four trainers have landed the prize more than once in the current century. Irish handlers, Willie Mullins, Henry de Bromhead, and Dessie Hughes, fill spots two through to four, but renowned two-mile specialist, Nicky Henderson, leads the way with six wins. Impressively, those victories were provided by five different horses – Buveur d’Air (2017, 2018) being the only multiple Henderson-trained winner in the current century. Having previously sent out See You Then to land three successive editions between 1985 and 1987, Henderson is out on his own as the most successful trainer in the history of the race, and few would bet against him adding to that tally.

Despite Henderson’s excellent record, the Irish trainers hold the overall edge versus their British counterparts, with 13 wins to 10 – even flat supremo Aidan O’Brien got in on the act when saddling the brilliant Istabraq to a third success in 2000.

Rating of Winner – 2000 to 2023

Champion Hurdle Rating of Winner

The winner’s rating varied wildly between 2000 and 2010 but has shown a more consistent positive trend in recent years. The 2000 winner Istabraq leads the way on 174, followed by 2023 hero Constitution Hill on 173. 17 of 23 winners (73.91%) had a rating of at least 160 headed into the race.

Finishing Position Last Time Out – 2000 to 2023

Champion Hurdle Finishing Position Last Time Out

One of the strongest trends emerges when looking at the performance of the winner on their previous outing. As the hottest two-mile hurdle of the year, it makes sense that the race would fall to an in-form challenger, and that theory is backed up by the stats, with 19 of 23 winners (82.61%) having also won on their most recent start. 22 or 23 had at least finished in the first three – the odd horse out being Jezki, who bounced back from a last-of-four finish in the Irish Champion Hurdle to come home in front in 2014.

Route to the Race – 2000 to 2023

Champion Hurdle Previous Race Winner

Nine different races have provided the stepping stone to Champion Hurdle glory in the current century – 12 Irish contests and 11 British races. It comes as no surprise that the Irish equivalent of the race leads the way, with the month gap between the events making it easy for the top challengers to take in both races. The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton has proved to be the most informative British contest, with Nicky Henderson, in particular, favouring that route to the race.

Fate of the Favourite – 2000 to 2023

With the race so often falling to an in-form runner arriving on the back of a solid performance in a similarly high-quality contest, it isn’t too surprising to learn that the market leader boasts a rock-solid record in this race. Between 2000 and 2023, no fewer than 12 favourites or joint-favourites came home in front. There were a few short prices in the mix – most notably Constitution Hill at 4/11 in 2023 – but a £1 level stakes punt on the jolly would still have returned a profit of £5.07 over this period.

Overall, 16 of 23 winners returned a single-figure SP, with the biggest shock coming courtesy of 33/1 shot Hardy Eustace in 2004. Proving that victory to be no fluke, the Dessie Hughes runner successfully defended his crown in 2005 – this time as the 7/2 joint-favourite.

Other Stats – 2000 to 2023

  • A confirmed ability at the top level has proven to be another of the strongest pointers to success, with 19 of 23 winners (82.61%) having already won in Grade 1 company.
  • A relatively recent outing has proven an advantage. 19 of the 23 winners (82.61%) were returning to the track within 60 days of their previous run. No horse during this period won following a break of more than 78 days.
  • JP McManus is way out in front amongst the owners. Between 2000 and 2023, his famous Green and Gold silks were carried to victory on seven occasions. With nine wins in total, McManus is the most successful owner in the history of the race.