history of the Unibet champion hurdle
The Unibet Champion Hurdle is, without doubt, the most prestigious hurdle race in the calendar. Run over a distance of two miles and 87 yards, with eight flights to be jumped. The race was first to run in 1927.
That inaugural race was won by Blaris, earning connections the grand sum of £365. Twelve months later, Brown Jack added his name to the Roll of Honour before switching codes to win the Queen Alexandra Stakes six times from 1929 - 1934.
Only three runners went to post in 1932 - the smallest field in the races' history. Insurance proved victorious that day and confirmed his superiority by following up twelve months later.
The post-war years saw the races' first triple winner. Hatton's Grace trained by the legendary Vincent O'Brien dominated from 1949 - 1951. He was swiftly followed by Sir Ken who recorded a hat-trick of wins for Willie Stephenson from 1952 - 1954 and still hold the record of being the shortest-priced winner - sent off a 2/5 favourite in 1953. He was ridden by Tim Molony who with four victories is the winning most rider.
The late 60s saw the emergence of another superstar in the shape of Persian War who ruled the race for trainer Colin Davies, winning three times from 1968 - 1970. The 70s provided some well-known winners and even today few will need little introduction. Bula recorded back-to-back wins in 1971 -1792, Comedy of Errors' two wins in 1973 and 1975 were sandwiched around the victory of a certain Lanzarote, before Night Nurse in 1976 - 1977, Monksfield in 1978 - 1979 and Sea Pigeon 1980 - 1981 all recorded doubles.
In 1984 Dawn Run, trained by Paddy Mullins, emerged on the scene and started re-writing the history books. That year she became the only second mare to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle - also adding the Irish and French versions, and two years later she added the Gold Cup and remains the only horse to have completed the Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double.
Night Henderson's See You Then dominated the race from 1985 - 1987 to become the races' firth three-time winner.
The most recent three-time winner came in 1998 - 2000 when Istabaq helped launch the career of a certain Aiden O'Brien. He was odds on to become the first four-time winner of the race in 2001 but was cruelly denied due to the entire Festival being lost to foot and mouth outbreak.
In recent times, Hurricane Fly excelled in 2011 and although he missed the following year due to injury, he returned in 2013 to regain his title. He could finish only fourth in 2014 and in his final attempt at the race, he finished a gallant third behind stablemate Faugheen in 2015.
Willie Mullins also saddled the winner in 2016 as Annie Power became the first mare since Flakey Dover in 1994 and just the fourth overall to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
The last couple of years have seen Nicky Henderson's Buveur d'Air get his head in front and extend his trainer's tally of victories in the race to seven. In 2019, he bid to become the sixth three-time winner of the race but lost out to Espoir D'Allen trained by Gavin Cromwell.
Who will be crowned the Unibet Champion Hurdle winner at The Festival™ presented by Magners 2020? Book your tickets now for Day One to find out and join us on Tuesday 10th March 2020.