This week’s article is relevant for the Cheltenham Festival next week but is also a good guide to a trend that can occur in subsequent years. It’s a discussion about horses winning races at the festival more than once.
There have been multiple winners of each of the four main championships races at the Cheltenham Festival this century. The atmosphere and the pace of the races is unique and some horses can’t cope. Other runners relish the experience and run well over a number of years and a special few win one the major races more than once. That information is valuable for next week’s meeting and in the future. Buveur D’Air is an odds-on favourite to win the Champion Hurdle for the second successive year.
Repeat winners happen because of the special demands of the track and the occasion. Every horse is trying and running on its merits so the best horse wins most of the big races. Course and distance form is carried forward from year to year which means there are instances of horses winning the same race more than once. Inexperienced horses or runners who have not contested a festival race before are at a disadvantage. Those that have seen it before excel from year to year.
Trainers and jockeys also contribute to multiple winners because they know what it takes to prepare and ride horses at the festival. Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins are the perennial leading trainer and jockey and that gives their horses an edge. Winning a race at the Cheltenham is a huge achievement because the racing is the most competitive of the season. If a horse has won one before the chances of it happening again are reduced. This trend is particularly common in the four biggest races.
Here is the list of horses that have won one of the four most prestigious races more than once since 2000:
Hardy Eustace 2004 and 2005
Hurricane Fly 2011 and 2013
Last year’s winner: Buveur D’Air
Buveur D’Air has the best chance of winning a championship race in successive years. The horse was a comfortable winner of the Champion Hurdle last season and no genuine rival has emerged over the last 12 months. Faugheen is not the force of old and My Tent Or Yours has finished second in the race three times. Buveur D’Air has by far the best form in the race and can win the Champion Hurdle again.
Moscow Flyer 2003 and 2005
Master Minded 2008 and 2009
Sprinter Sacre 2013 and 2016
Last year’s winner: Special Tiara
This is the only other race out of the four that can produce the same winner as last year. The race fell into Special Tiara’s lap because Douvan ran poorly and finished lame. Altior assumes the role of Douvan this year but there are no injury doubts about the horse. Altior is just about the best horse in training and Special Tiara is well behind the form on ratings so can’t win the Champion Chase again.
Baracouda 2002 and 2003
Inglis Drever 2005, 2007 and 2008
Big Buck’s 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012
Last year’s winner: Nichols Canyon
Since 2000 nine of the winners of the stayers’ hurdle were multiple winners but sadly that is impossible this year. Nichols Canyon won the race in 2017 but was fatally injured in a race in Ireland. It’s ironic that the race that has produced most returning winners won’t be won by last year’s champion.
Best Mate 2002, 2003 and 2004
Kauto Star 2007 and 2008
Last year’s winner: Sizing John
Sizing John still has other chances but the horse won’t be winning the Gold Cup this year. Due to a pelvis injury Sizing John has been withdrawn which means the three most recent winners of the race will not be taking part. Another year will have to pass before the race produces a multiple winner.
So, only two of the four winners of the main features of the day from last year can win the same race in 2018 and Buveur D’Air has by far the best chance.