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Feature Race of Day One of The Festival™

The third Grade 1 race on Tuesday's card, The Unibet Champion Hurdle is the Championship race for two-mile hurdlers and is the highest-quality race of its type run anywhere in the world.


The crème de la crème of Europe’s speed hurdlers chase a total prize fund of £450,000. 


Roll of Honour

(2013 - 2020)









Nicky Henderson


Espoir D’Allen


Gavin Cromwell (Ire)


Buveur d’Air


Nicky Henderson


Buveur d’Air


Nicky Henderson


Annie Power


Willie Mullins (Ire)




Willie Mullins (Ire)




Jessica Harrington (Ire)


Hurricane Fly


Willie Mullins (Ire)


the Unibet champion hurdle history


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. 


Race Schedule


Start Times





The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race

2m abt ½f



The Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase

abt 2m



The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase

3m abt 1f



The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
(feature race)

2m abt ½f



The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle Race

2m abt 4f



The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race (Grade 3)

2m abt 4½f



The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Steeple Chase) (Grade 2)

3m abt 6f


Other Feature Races at The Festival™

The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

The feature race of the day is The Grade 1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, the championship event for two-mile chasers.

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The Ryanair Steeple Chase

The Grade 1 Ryanair Steeple Chase is a race for five-year-olds and upwards which are rated in excess of 130 and is run over the intermediate trip of two miles, four and a half furlongs.

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The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase

The cream of British and Irish staying chasers will be lining up for what is known as the Blue Riband of steeple chasing, and the small matter a total of £625,000 in first prize. 

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