The Stan James Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 Hurdle.

The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdle race in the whole calendar and is run for the best hurdlers and takes place on the opening day of the Cheltenham festival.

First Run in 1927 this is the top class hurdle race that all top class two mile hurdlers are aimed at all season.

There have been many multiple winners and the last triple winner was Istabraq 1998/1999/2000.

More . .



Here we are at day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival and the top two-mile hurdle of the whole season. The Champion Hurdle this year looks very interesting racing indeed.

We have the usual mix of new horses trying the race for the first time and old favourites coming back to try and repeat the glory of previous years.

Last year's winner Jezki has had a similar build-up to the race that he did last year. His form has been good especially considering that this championship race will be his target for the year. If not for the very smart Hurricane Fly his form would look even better but coming up against that horse in Ireland sometimes seems almost impossible task. He will be fit and ready and is very much fancied by a lot of good form judges to repeat last year's win and there have been plenty of horses that have won this race on more than one occasion.

The horse that has beaten Jezki on numerous occasions is dual winner Hurricane Fly. Hurricane Fly is one of the best hurdlers we have ever seen. He has to date won 22 Grade 1 races, more than any other horse. His form line is outstanding and he has Won the Champion hurdle on two occasions (2011 & 2013). However there is no question that Cheltenham is a racecourse that does not suit this horse and he has been beaten in this race on two occasions. Tackling the race again at 11 years old it really would be a remarkable win with the last 11-year-old winning the race being in 1981 when Sea Pigeon took the race for the second time. I doubt if there would be a more popular winner than this horse but this year he does seem to have at least three top class horses to get the better of.

Hurricane Fly comes from the stable of the Irish all conquering Willie Mullins. Willie however has another horse with the potential of "the fly". This comes in the shape of Faugheen who has the potential to be a really great horse. Unbeaten in his eight races under rules (one win also at a point-to-point) he seems to be going straight to the top. He has been improving with every run and was very impressive taking the Neptune investment novice hurdle at last year’s festival. He has now won three Grade 1 races however this is the Champion Hurdle and although he could be an outstanding horse he will not only have to run really well but will need to win this race well to be hailed as a champion. He has lots and lots of potential and it would be great to see a new outstanding hurdler.

With the two top horses coming from the Mullins Irish stable and also Jezki from the Irish stable of Jessica Harrington the best of the English horses comes in the form of The New One. From the Nigel Twiston-Davies stables, I think it is widely regarded that this horse bar for being hampered three from home would have won last season's Champion hurdle. He certainly seemed to be going the best at that time and ran on really well closing on the first two but never quite getting to them. He went on from that race to win at Aintree and indeed has been unbeaten since. A top-class horse who has won 11 of his 15 hurdle starts. He is another who will be well supported on the day and will bring the house down should he win as this is something of a family affair with Nigel's son Sam riding the horse at what is the local track. Sure to be popular on the day.

After these four extremely good horses there is a fair gap in the betting market which perhaps would suggest that this race will only be run between those four however there are some interesting horses also entered for the race. Article Fire is a nice horse going the right way and was third behind Hurricane Fly in the Grade 1 Ryanair hurdle at Leopardstown and that was a good run. He is still improving and should act on good ground should the festival meeting ground be better than we have seen on the lead up. Kitten Rock is unbeaten in his last four runs and is another who while below the grade of the leading contenders he is improving with every race and was very impressive in a Grade 2 at Gowran Park in a five runner race where he had the second 12 lengths behind, the third further 6 lengths behind and the fourth a further 36 lengths behind. Another really live Irish contender.

So this race is the first championship race of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival and looks to be a fantastic race in prospect. All stories for the winner can be covered and hacks will probably have their storys ready. I'm sure should Faugheen win the race then all will be hailing a future all conquering super horse and it could be the last time you ever see this horse run at a competitive starting price. If The New One wins the race then surely that will be justice for him for his disappointment in running last year. Jezki winning would certainly frank the horses top-class form and would silence doubters who may have thought there was a little luck in last year's win. And if Hurricane Fly was to win his third Champion hurdle there would scarcely be anybody who could doubt that he is the best hurdler in modern times.

Race Conditions: For 4yo+ which are allotted a rating of 130 or more by the BHA Head of Handicapping following a review of the horses entered and after taking account of races run up to and including March 4th. Horses which are not qualified for a rating in Great Britain, Ireland or France may also be entered. Such horses may be eligible providing the Handicapper is satisfied that the horse's racecourse performances up to and including March 4th 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 Allowances fillies and mares 7lb



1 12332 Arctic Fire 6 11-10 W P Mullins Danny Mullins 157
A young six-year-old bay gelding who is a smart young hurdler showing improvement with every race.
Runs mainly in Ireland and unfortunately comes up against two really good hurdlers in the form of Hurricane Fly and Jezki.
Has something to find on those two horses here today and will surely improve, but he will have to do as there are some really high-class horses running here today.
Unless there is some mishap in the race he will be running for place claims only.

*Going preference.*Wins have come on ground ranging from good through to heavy.
*Maximum winning distance.*Hurdle 2 miles.
*Previous win/run.*Hurdle 10/2.

2 9-1262 Bertimont52 5 11-10 Dan Skelton Harry Skelton 149
A 5-year-old grey gelding trained by Dan Skelton who comes here today with a lack of top-class form.
Looks to be completely out of his depth in a really good field.

*Going preference. *Wins have come on ground ranging from good to soft through to heavy.
*Maximum winning distance. *Hurdle 2 miles and half a furlong.
*Previous win/run *hurdle 3/11.

3 11-111 Faugheen 7 11-10 W P Mullins R. Walsh 169
This unbeaten seven-year-old bay has looked a different class to his opposition in every race he has run so far. The minimum distance that he has won by is three and three-quarter lengths and that was last November. Looks a really special horse from the powerful yard of Willie Mullins. He is three times Grade 1 winner. He won last season's Neptune Investment novice hurdle at the Festival and looked really special beating his field by 4 1/2 lengths. He never looked in any trouble that day and was a very easy winner. He went on to win the Irish novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April. Two runs so far this season both in the UK the first was when he won the Coral hurdle at Ascot and then he annihilated his field in the Christmas hurdle at Kempton where he had the field completely strung out, the second was eight lengths away, the third further nine lengths, the fourth further 14 lengths and the fifth further 12 lengths behind. This will be a step up for him and he has all the makings of a great hurdler. The big question is will he be able to take on these seasoned hurdlers and cast them aside as he has done in previous races. Having already won at Cheltenham, the course should not prove too much of a problem for him but he still does have to improve as he is not yet rated as good as some of the others in the field. Long-time favourite for the race and sure to run well.

*Going preference.*Wins have come on ground ranging from good through to heavy.
*Maximum winning distance.*Hurdle race 3 miles.
*Previous win/run.*Hurdle 8/8.

4 4-2111 Hurricane Fly 11 11-10 W P Mullins Paul Townsend 169
Absolute top-class chaser from the Willie Mullins yard.
This horse has proved to be virtually unbeatable when running in his native Ireland.
A dual winner of the Champion hurdle, he won in 2011 and then again int 2013. He has an outstanding record with 22 Grade 1 wins to his name which is a record for any horse.
He is unbeaten in his three runs since November beating one of his rivals today Jezki on to separate occasions and also accounting for the Irish Champion hurdle at Leopardstown.
Should not be at the top of this form at 11 years old however this season he has looked as good as ever and a possible hat-trick of Champion hurdle victories is on the cards. The only possible chink in his armour is that Cheltenham does not seem to suit his running so that makes his two Champion hurdle wins even more impressive. I don't that there would be more emotional winner than this horse today.

*Going preference.*Wins have come on ground ranging from good through to soft.
*Maximum winning distance.*Hurdle 2 miles 3 1/2 furlongs.
*Previous win/run.*Hurdle 29/24.

5 1-1223 Jezki 7 11-10 Mrs John Harrington A.P. McCoy 168
Top-class hurdler who has been unfortunate enough to run many times against Hurricane Fly in Ireland, and subsequently has quite a few seconds in his form line.
A deserving winner of the 2014 Champion hurdle where he fought out a close hard-fought win over the very smart My Tent or Yours.
He also went on two months later and in the racing Post Champion hurdle at Punchestown actually got the better of Hurricane Fly his long-time nemesis.
A good sound jumper who travels well in his races, and contests most of the major hurdle races in Ireland. Only really races outside Ireland when he comes over here to the Cheltenham Festival.
Has done little wrong this season other than coming up against the mighty Hurricane Fly this season. However this is the race that he will have been aimed at. Sure to come here fit and healthy as he runs well this time of year. Multiple winners of the Champion hurdle are common and it would not be a surprise to see this horse win his second here today.

*Going preference.*Wins have come on ground ranging from good through to heavy.
*Maximum winning distance.*Hurdle 2 miles and 4 furlongs.
*Previous win/run.*Hurdle 15/9.

6 41111 Kitten Rock 5 11-10 E J O´Grady Noel Fehily 156
A five-year-old bay gelding from the E. O'Grady yard.
An improving sort who runs well, jumps well and finishes his races really well.
Still has a lot to prove but making steady progress. He may be a little too inexperienced as yet to win this race and five-year-olds don't have a great record in the race.
Comes here on great recent form and going from strength to strength and is an interesting runner.

*Going preferences.*Wins have come on ground ranging from good through to heavy.
*Maximum winning distance.*Hurdle 2 miles and 3 furlongs.
*Previous win/run.*Hurdle 8/6.

7 1-1111 The New One 7 11-10 Nigel Twiston-Davies S.Twiston-Davies 167
Top-class hurdler trained by the Nigel Twiston Davies stable.
Classy individual who jumps well and travels well throughout his race.
Previous Festival winner, in 20112 he was the winner of the Neptune investment novice hurdle, and is a multiple winner at the championship course.
This horse has at one time or another beaten most of the other top-class hurdlers in the country.
This top-class hurdler was unlucky in the 2014 Champion hurdle when he was travelling really well, a horse in front of him fell fatally and interfered with this horse and although he rallied he never actually got back on track.

This horse is unbeaten so far this season with four runs including the Grade 2 international hurdle at this course on 13th December. He also won the Champion hurdle trial at Haydock in January this year.
Top-class and every chance in this race today.

*Going preference.*Wins have come on ground ranging from good through to heavy.
*Maximum winning distance.*Hurdle 2 miles 5 furlongs.
*Previous win/run .*Hurdle 15/11.

8 13-222 Vaniteux 6 11-10 Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty 154
A 6-year-old Nicky Henderson runner who although progressive does not look to be up to the class of this race, at least not yet.
Probably takes his chance here because of his good run in the international hurdle, a grade 2 at this course on December 13. He was 4 1/2 lengths behind The New One that day and there is little to suggest that he could overturn that given that he was getting 8 pounds from the winner. Would be a surprise winner.

*Going preference. *Wins have come on good to soft ground.
*Maximum winning distance. *Hurdle 2 miles forum a half furlongs.
*Previous win/run. *Hurdle 2/7.


Position Form Name Age Weight Trainer Jockey
1 11-111 Faugheen 7 11-10 W P Mullins Ruby Walsh
2 12332 Arctic Fire 6 11-10 W P Mullins Danny Mullins
3 4-2111 Hurricane Fly 11 11-10 W P Mullins Paul Townend
4 1-1223 Jezki 7 11-10 Mrs John Harrington A.P.McCoy
5 1-1111 The New One 7 11-10 Nigel Twiston-Davies Sam Twiston-Davies
6 41111 Kitten Rock 5 11-10 E J O´Grady Noel Fehily
7 9-1262 Bertimont 5 11-10 Dan Skelton Harry Skelton
8 13-222 Vaniteux 6 11-10 Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty

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