The most prestigious hurdling event in the National Hunt calendar returns on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival with a clutch of horses and riders looking to put their names alongside a star studded list of winners. The list of winners in the Champion Hurdle features some of the most highly acclaimed names in the sports history, including National Spirit, Istabraq and Persian War.
Here we will be looking at some of the major trends that have developed in recent years to help you pick a name from this years line up so you can hopefully back a winner:
1. Luck Of The Irish
Horses trained in Ireland have hit a purple patch recently, with 6 of the last 12 Champion Hurdle winners trained there. This includes the last four winners, with Hurricane Fly winning in 2011 and 2013 and Jezki and Rock On Ruby the last four victors.
2. Go With Form
Consulting the formbook is crucial when picking a winner for the Champion Hurdle. Of last 18 runnings, 14 of the winners have won or been second at a Cheltenham Festival race before. Also, out of the last 27 winners, 22 of them were winners in their previous race, so a horse with 1 at the end of their recent form guide should prove crucial.
3. Age Is Crucial
In the last 58 years, there has only ever been three winners in the Champion Hurdle over the age of 8. At the other end of the scale, only Katchit in 2008 has won the race while aged 5 or below since 1985. That means that horses aged between 6 and 8 are your best bets for this years Champions Hurdle.
4. Seeing Double
There has been several occasions where Champion Hurdle winners have came back the next year and retained their crown. Hardy Eustace won consecutive Champion Hurdle’s in 2004 and 2005, while Istabraq went one better and won three in a row between 1998-2000. Jezki is among the early favourites to win again in 2015 and given that he fits the bill of being trained in Ireland and aged 7 by the time the Champion Hurdle returns this year, he may be a strong contender to retain his crown.
5. Bookies Know Best
Some races at Cheltenham, such as the Arkle Trophy, often see an outsider topple more established favourites. The Champion Hurdle, however, has saw the favourite win 40% of the time in the last ten runnings. Going beyond the first favourite for the race, 19 of the last 20 winners came from the first six in the betting odds.