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Cheltenham Festival Race Facts - Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 28/01/11

The highlight of the first day of the Cheltenham Festival and the most prestigious hurdle race of the entire National Hunt season – the roll of honour for this race reads like a who's who of hurdling history.

Taking a look through those names throws up such greats as Persian War, Bula, Night Nurse, Monksfield, Sea Pigeon, See You Then and Istabraq. For a race that attracts a strong and competitive field each year, multiple winners are not uncommon – Istabraq landing a hat-trick between 1998 and 2000 – there are four other triple scorers in the race - Hatton's Grace (1949-51), Sir Ken (1952-54), Persian War (1968-70) and See You Then (1985-87). Not only are there horses that are multiple winners but trainers also, with the now retired Peter Easterby and Nicky Henderson holding the record with five wins apiece – Henderson having won the race for the past two years and having a chance to add to his tally in 2011.

Dessie Hughes, who trained Hardy Eustace to win in 2004 and 2005, is only the fourth person to have both ridden and trained a Stan James Champion Hurdle winner, having partnered Monksfield in 1979. The others to have achieved this double were Fred Winter, Fred Rimell and Gerry Wilson.

First run in 1927, the Champion Hurdle needs a unique blend of speed, stamina and jumping ability to be able to land the prize.



The 2010 version of the race was one of redemption for the winner Binocular, trained by Paul Nicholls rival Nicky Henderson, who was sent off 6/4 favourite the year before when finishing third behind his stablemate Punjabi. On this occasion at the more rewarding odds of 9/1 Binocular reversed the form in impressive fashion having looked likely to miss the race a few weeks before. He flew up the hill to win the race having been written off throughout the season, his quick and fluent hurdling very much the hallmark of this success.

Khyber Kim was a clear second best but chased the winner in vain, while Zaynar – from the same stable as the winner and successful in the JCB Triumph hurdle the year before ran much better in cheekpieces and stayed on for third despite being pushed along early.

The first Irish challenger home was sixth and that was disappointing as they looked to have a very strong team – most unsatisfactory of all was the run from favourite Go Native who found little fluency in the race and finished 10th alongside the previous year's winner Punjabi.

This highlights the worth of going to Cheltenham "in-form" - 23 of the last 26 winners of this race have won last time out. Admittedly, Binocular only won a three horse contest before his triumph last year but it is a very powerful statistic when taking a look at the Champion Hurdle and anyone condsiering a punt on Cheltenham 2011 should remember this.

A race that is usually run at a tremendous gallop so make sure that your horse has a mixture of stamina and speed – the capability to have won over further than 2M is an asset. Remember to value winners last time out more highly than other contenders and greatly respect horses that have finished in the first three at the Festival before. The Irish challenge despite the last few years should be well respected and this is not a race for shocks the front six in the betting have dominated the winners list for the past 20 years.

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