Stan McCormack takes a look back at great Irish horses that have stormed to victory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The first Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham took place in 1927 and it was won by Blaris. It was not until 1946 that Ireland won its first Champion Hurdle with Distel (4/5F) the hot favourite, and the total number of winners by 2019 is 23.
Distel was owned by the legendary Dorothy Paget, and trained in Ireland by Charlie Rogers. Between them they had three winners on that day. Distel was ridden by Bobby O’Ryan and he coasted home in the race.
In the years to come Hatton’s Grace (1949-51) and Istabraq (1985-87) became triple champions, while Monksfield (1978/79), Hardy Eustace (2004/05), and Hurricane Fly (2011 and 2013) became dual champions.
Vincent O’Brien was a genius with both jumpers and flat horses but when 9 y/o Hatton’s Grace went for the Champion Hurdle in 1949 he seemed an unlikely winner. All the attention was on Cottage Rake going for his second Gold Cup for O’Brien (he won it three times 1948-1950).
Hatton’s Grace was ridden by Aubrey Brabazon, and cruised home by six lengths. In 1950, he was 5/2F but this time it was tougher, as he battled on to win by 1½ lengths.
When he went for the treble, he was 11 y/o and only 4/1 in the betting. Ridden by Tim Maloney he won easily by 5 ½ lengths.
He was extraordinary in that he won the Irish Lincoln over a mile on the flat and Irish Cesarewitch over 2 miles twice.