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Dual winner Buveur D'Air headlines 27 entries for Unibet Champion Hurdle

Press Release 16th January 2019 Cheltenham

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - The reigning champion Buveur D'Air stars among 27 entries, up from 23 last year, for the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on day one of The Festival™ presented by Magners, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 12, details of which are revealed today.

Buveur D'Air (Nicky Henderson) has captured the two most recent renewals of the two-mile hurdling championship, worth £450,000, and is trying to become the sixth three-time winner of the Unibet Champion Hurdle since the race's inception in 1927.

The eight-year-old is out to emulate Hatton's Grace (1949, 1950, 1951), Sir Ken (1952, 1953, 1954), Persian War (1968, 1969, 1970), See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987) and Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000).

Buveur D'Air, successful in 11 of his 13 starts over hurdles, looked as good as ever on his comeback this term when routing Irish hope Samcro (Gordon Elliott IRE) by eight lengths in the G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on December 1.

However, he suffered a shock short-head defeat at the hands of stablemate Verdana Blue (Nicky Henderson) in the G1 Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on December 26.

Nicky Henderson, with seven successes, has the best record of any trainer ever in the history of the Unibet Champion Hurdle. The six-strong team from Britain's champion Jump trainer also features G2 Unibet International Hurdle victor Brain Power, Call Me Lord, Charli Parcs and We Have A Dream, who was a leading juvenile last season.

Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for five of the 12 Irish-trained entries, with his quintet headed by last year's neck runner-up Melon and rising star Laurina, who was a facile 18-length winner of the G2 Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle at The Festival™ presented by Magners in 2018.

The Mullins' hand is completed by Galway Hurdle scorer Sharjah, who has since bolstered his CV with G1 triumphs at Punchestown and Leopardstown, Cilaos Emery and Saldier.

His main rival in Ireland, Gordon Elliott, has Samcro and outstanding racemare Apple's Jade among his four entries. Last season's JCB Triumph Hurdle hero Farclas and Tombstone are also engaged for the County Meath handler.

Gavin Cromwell could have his first Unibet Champion Hurdle runner courtesy of Espoir D'Allen, who like Buveur D'Air is owned by JP McManus, the most successful owner in Unibet Champion Hurdle history with seven victories.

Espoir D'Allen has been successful on six of his seven starts over hurdles, with a 100 per cent record so far this season. The five-year-old started the campaign with victory in the G3 Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas in November before registering an impressive eight-length success in the G3 Irish Independent Hurdle at Limerick over Christmas.

The County Meath-based Cromwell said: "Espoir D'Allen is in good form and we are happy with him.

"He will run next week in the G3 Limestone Lad Hurdle [Naas, January 27], and has been given an entry in the Champion Hurdle.

"We will have to see whether he runs in that race at Cheltenham or elsewhere.

"Five-year-olds don't have a great record in the Champion Hurdle, but he is showing the right signs.

"We will see how he gets on at Naas first."

The remaining Irish entries are the two most recent winners of the G1 Irish Champion Hurdle in Supasundae (Jessica Harrington IRE) and Petit Mouchoir (Henry de Bromhead IRE).

Improving grey Silver Streak (Evan Williams) has made great strides over hurdles this season. After a decisive victory in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las in October, the six-year-old ran twice at Cheltenham, going down by a neck in the G3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at The November Meeting and filling the same position behind Brain Power in the G2 Unibet International Hurdle at The International on December 15.

Four greys have won the Unibet Champion Hurdle, the most recent being Rooster Booster in 2003.

Evan Williams, whose stables are in the Vale of Glamorgan, said: "Silver Streak is in good form and came out of his second in the International well.

"He has enjoyed a great season, with some excellent performances, and has run to a good level.

"I think we will probably run in the Unibet Champion Hurdle. You never know what will happen in these races.

"We are not going there thinking we will win it, but although it is a long shot, we will give it a go.

"Hopefully, there is more improvement to come and better ground is something that suits him.

"He will have a run before Cheltenham in one of the Champion Hurdle trials."

Other entries in the Unibet Champion Hurdle include high-class stayer Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies), third in last season's G1 Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle and 2018 G3 Randox Health County Hurdle victor Mohaayed (Dan Skelton).

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse is situated in Prestbury on the northern outskirts of the historic spa town of Cheltenham. The Home of Jump Racing, Cheltenham Racecourse is the venue for the world's pre-eminent Jump meeting. The Festival™ presented by Magners, which happens in March over four days every year, next takes place from Tuesday, March 12, to Friday, March 15, 2019 inclusive and tickets are on sale. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham Racecourse is a stunning natural arena and offers the highest-quality action throughout the Jump season. 

More information is available at www.cheltenham.co.uk   and through Twitter (@CheltenhamRaces), Facebook www.facebook.com/thehomeofjumpracing  and Instagram (@CheltenhamRaces).

 About The Jockey Club

Cheltenham is part of The Jockey Club which stages thrilling sporting occasions including The Randox Health Grand National, The Festival™ presented by Magners and The Investec Derby. Millions of people every year enjoy the special experiences The Jockey Club offers through racing, music, food and entertainment. Governed by Royal Charter, every penny made goes back into British Racing to help the sport thrive. The Jockey Club was founded in 1750 and today is the largest commercial group in Britain's second-biggest spectator sport, operating 15 racecourses nationwide, The National Stud, Jockey Club Estates, Jockey Club Catering, Jockey Club Live and the charity, Racing Welfare. For more information, visit www.thejockeyclub.co.uk

If you need any information about racing at Cheltenham, please contact: Sophia Dale, Communications Manager - Jockey Club Racecourses South West 01242 537 683 sophia.dale@thejockeyclub.co.uk

G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle Facts & Figures

 BACKGROUND INFORMATION - DISTANCE 2m 87y

The G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle was inaugurated in 1927, with a value to the winner of £365. The race is worth £450,000 again this year.

The race was abandoned in 1931 due to persistent frost, in 1943 and 1944 because of the Second World War, and in 2001 because of foot and mouth disease.

 There have been four sponsors. Waterford Crystal backed the championship two-mile hurdling contest from 1978 to 1990, while the Smurfit Group sponsored the top hurdle from 1991 to 2010.

Stan James took over in 2011.The betting operator was subsequently purchased by the Kindred Group, which last year changed the sponsorship to another brand, Unibet.                                         

BIGGEST FIELD

The highest number of runners was 24 (1964 and 1991), with the smallest field being three (1932). The first five runnings saw a total of only 24 participants between them.

 MULTIPLE WINNERS

Five horses have won the Unibet Champion Hurdle three times - Hatton's Grace (1949, 1950, 1951), Sir Ken (1952, 1953, 1954), Persian War (1968, 1969, 1970), See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987) and Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000).

Ten horses have recorded two victories - Insurance (1932 & 1933), National Sprit (1947 & 1948), Bula (1971 & 1972), Comedy Of Errors (1973 & 1975), Night Nurse (1976 & 1977), Monksfield (1978 & 1979), Sea Pigeon (1980 & 1981), Hardy Eustace (2004 & 2005), Hurricane Fly (2011 & 2013) and Buveur D'Air (2017 & 2018). Comedy Or Errors and Hurricane Fly are the only two horses to have regained the Champion Hurdle crown.

Buveur D'Air, successful in both 2017 and 2018, is bidding to become sixth three-time winner in 2019.

MOST SUCCESSFUL OWNER

The most successful owner in the history of the championship race is J P McManus with seven victories, thanks to triple winner Istabraq (1998, 1999 and 2000), Binocular (2010), Jezki (2014) and Buveur D'Air (2017 & 2018).

MOST SUCCESSFUL TRAINER

Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer, with seven wins - See You Then (1985, 1986 and 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010) and Buveur D'Air (2017 & 2018).

 MOST SUCCESSFUL JOCKEY

Tim Molony and Ruby Walsh both have notched up four Champion Hurdle victories.

Molony scored on Hatton's Grace (1951) and Sir Ken (1952, 1953 & 1954).

Walsh has been successful aboard Hurricane Fly (2011 & 2013), Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016).

 MARES

Four mares have taken Champion Hurdle honours, thanks to Annie Power (2016) joining African Sister (1939), Dawn Run (1984) and Flakey Dove (1994).

 BETTING

The biggest shocks in the Unibet Champion Hurdle were provided by Kirriemuir (1965) and Beech Road (1989), who were both returned at 50/1.

At the other end of the scale, the shortest-priced winners were Lion Courage (1935), Sir Ken (1954) and Istabraq (1999), who were all sent off 4/9.

In the 88 runnings, 37 favourites (42 per cent) have prevailed.

GREYS

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

 AGE

The oldest winners were Hattons Grace (1951) and Sea Pigeon (1981), both 11-year-olds.

The youngest winners were the four-year-olds Brown Jack (1928), Brown Tony (1930), Seneca (1941) and Forestation (1942).

The overall age breakdown is as follows:

4yo - 4 victories

5yo - 11 victories

6yo - 31 victories

7yo - 22 victories

8yo - 9 victories

9yo - 7 victories

10yo - 2 victories

11yo - 2 victories

 RECORD TIME

Annie Power recorded the fastest time for the Unibet Champion Hurdle in 2016, winning in 3m 45.10s to just overcome the previous best of 3m 45.25s set by Jezki in 2014.

 RIDDEN AND TRAINED WINNER

Four winning jockeys also went on train the Champion Hurdle winner.

 

 

RODE

TRAINED

Gerry Wilson

Lion Courage (1935)

Brains Trust (1945)

Fred Rimell

Brains Trust (1945)

Comedy Of Errors (1973 & 1975)

Fred Winter

Clair Solei (1955), Fare Times (1959),

Eborneezer (1961)

Bula (1971 & 1972),

Lanzarote (1974), Celtic Shot (1988)

Dessie Hughes

Monksfield (1979)

Hardy Eustace (2004 & 2005)

 

OVERSEAS-TRAINED WINNERS

Ireland (22): Distel (1946), Hatton's Grace (1949, 1950, 1951), Another Flash (1960), Winning Fair (1963), Monksfield (1978, 1979), For Auction (1982), Dawn Run (1984), Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000), Hardy Eustace (2004, 2005), Brave Inca (2006), Sublimity (2007), Hurricane Fly (2011, 2013), Jezki (2014), Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016).

G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle

Grade 1, £450,000 Total Prize Fund. Cheltenham, 3.30pm, Tuesday, March 12, two miles and half a furlong (2m 87y). For four-year-olds and upwards who are allotted a rating of 130 or more by the senior BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and taking account of races run up to and including the day prior to confirmation - horses who are not qualified for a rating in GB, IRE or FR may also be entered (such horses may be eligible providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse's racecourse performances up to and including the day prior to confirmation would merit a minimum rating of 130 - the decision of the BHA Head of Handicapping shall be final). Weights: 4yo: 11st 2lb; 5yo+: 11st 10lb; fillies & mares allowed 7lb. Entries closed January 15, entries revealed January 16 (27 entries). Scratchings deadline February 12, £22,500 supplementary stage & six-day confirmation stage March 6, final declaration 10.00am, March 10, maximum number of runners 26.

 

Horse

Age

Owner

Trainer

APPLE'S JADE (FR)

7

Gigginstown House Stud

Gordon Elliott IRE

BRAIN POWER (IRE)

8

Michael Buckley

Nicky Henderson 

BUVEUR D'AIR (FR)

8

J P McManus

Nicky Henderson 

CALL ME LORD (FR)

6

Simon Munir & Isaac Souede

Nicky Henderson 

CHARLI PARCS (FR)

6

J P McManus

Nicky Henderson 

CH'TIBELLO (FR)

8

The Can't Say No Partnership

Dan Skelton 

CILAOS EMERY (FR)

7

Luke McMahon

Willie Mullins IRE

ESPOIR D'ALLEN (FR)

5

J P McManus

Gavin Cromwell IRE

FARCLAS (FR)

5

Gigginstown House Stud

Gordon Elliott IRE

GLOBAL CITIZEN (IRE)

7

The Megsons

Ben Pauling 

LAURINA (FR)

6

Sullivan Bloodstock Limited

Willie Mullins IRE

MAN OF PLENTY

10

G Thompson

Sophie Leech 

MELON

7

Mrs J Donnelly

Willie Mullins IRE

MOHAAYED

7

June Watts

Dan Skelton 

PETIT MOUCHOIR (FR)

8

Gigginstown House Stud

Henry de Bromhead IRE

PINGSHOU (IRE)

9

Ann & Alan Potts Limited

Colin Tizzard 

SALDIER (FR)

5

Susannah Ricci

Willie Mullins IRE

SAMCRO (IRE)

7

Gigginstown House Stud

Gordon Elliott IRE

SHARJAH (FR)

6

Susannah Ricci

Willie Mullins IRE

SILVER STREAK (IRE)

6

L Fell

Evan Williams 

SUPASUNDAE

9

Ann & Alan Potts Limited

Jessica Harrington IRE

TOMBSTONE (IRE)

9

Gigginstown House Stud

Gordon Elliott IRE

VERDANA BLUE (IRE)

7

Crimbourne Stud

Nicky Henderson 

VISION DES FLOS (FR)

6

Ann & Alan Potts Limited

Colin Tizzard 

WE HAVE A DREAM (FR)

5

Simon Munir & Isaac Souede

Nicky Henderson 

WESTERN RYDER (IRE)

7

Albatross Club/Bryan Drew & Friends

Warren Greatrex 

WHOLESTONE (IRE)

8

Simon Munir & Isaac Souede

Nigel Twiston-Davies 

 

27 entries

12 Irish-trained

 Breakdown of Entries by Trainer

6 entries

Nicky Henderson - Brain Power, Buveur D'Air, Call Me Lord, Charli Parcs, Verdana Blue, We Have A Dream

5 entries

Willie Mullins IRE - Cilaos Emery, Laurina, Melon, Saldier, Sharjah

4 entries

Gordon Elliott IRE - Apple's Jade, Farclas, Samcro, Tombstone

2 entries

Dan Skelton - Ch'tibello, Mohaayed

Colin Tizzard - Pingshou, Vision Des Flos

1 entry

Henry de Bromhead IRE - Petit Mouchoir

Gavin Cromwell IRE - Espoir D'Allen

Warren Greatrex - Western Ryder

Jessica Harrington IRE - Supasundae

Sophie Leech - Men Of Plenty

Ben Pauling - Global Citizen

Nigel Twiston-Davies - Wholestone

Evan Williams - Silver Streak

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