Aintree Hurdle Betting Tips & Predictions – Thursday 4th April 2019

The Grand National Festival gets underway this Thursday and the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle is one of the highlight contests of the opening day. The stature of the race is matched by its large purse which stands at lucrative £250,000.

Often this race features the winner of the Champion Hurdle but Espoir D’Allen does not feature among the nine declared runners. We do however see Cheltenham’s beaten favourite in action, Buveur D’Air. Nicky Henderson’s horse leads the betting here but Faugheen could ensure he suffers another miserable afternoon.

Top Tips

Faugheen to win @ 6/1

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Info

While this race tends to attract many Champion Hurdle performers, it is around four furlongs longer than the contest at Cheltenham. There’s also a difference in underfoot conditions between them this year with the ground at Aintree set to be a little quicker than it was during last month’s Festival.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Good to soft 2m 4f Grade 1 £250,000 9 1/5 1-3

Recent Winners

There have been several multiple champions of the Aintree Hurdle over the course of its history, most recently Oscar Whisky who won in both 2011 and 2012. Buveur d’Air was denied a shot of making the list last year due to an unsatisfactory trachea but is fully fit ahead of this upcoming renewal.

The betting has regularly proven to be a useful guide for this race. Out of the last 11 winners, only 2013 champion Zarkander was not one of the leading three contenders.

YearWinnerSPTrainerJockey
2018 L’Ami Serge 5/1 Nicky Henderson Daryl Jacob
2017 Buveur D’Air 4/9 Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty
2016 Annie Power 4/9 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2015 Jezki 3/1 Mrs John Harrington A P McCoy
2014 The New One 4/9 Nigel Twiston-Davies Sam Twiston-Davies

Analysis: Faugheen to benefit from late withdrawals

Both Benie Des Dieux and Apple’s Jade were among the entries for this race and the two talented mares found themselves high up the betting. Both were pulled at the declaration stage though, allowing Faugheen to move up to third favourite. Although he still needs to have the beating of Buveur D’Air, edging out just one talented horses is much easier than three.

Buveur D’Air a risk after first fall

There’s no question that Buveur D’Air has the talent to win this race but will he be able to produce the goods at Aintree after falling during the Champion Hurdle? Nicky Henderson insists the eight-year-old has not been impacted by the incident, thoroughly impressed with his recent efforts in schooling. It’s best to stay unconvinced by the claims though, especially given that the gelding blundered during the Christmas Hurdle loss. Two mistakes in one season is normal for most horses but for the normally faultless Buveur D’Air, it may be a sign of his decline.

Melon lacking juice for the trip

Second place in the Champion Hurdle was more than most predicted for 20/1 shot Melon but even during the near minimum distance race the seven-year-old tired towards the end. With his legs beginning to wobble, the seven-year-old hit the final hurdle and almost surrendered his safe looking second spot. When also considering he’s never once competed more than 2m 1f before, it is a surprise Mullins has entered him for this race. A two-and-a-half mile test looks much further than ideal and one he’s unlikely to have the legs for.

Faugheen still has plenty left

Like so many of the Aintree Hurdle field, Faugheen was denied a Cheltenham Festival win last month but there was little to fault about his performance. The 11-year-old finished third during a competitive Stayers’ Hurdle renewal, jumping well throughout the gruelling contest. Two hurdles out the veteran horse stood every chance and it is for this reason why a shorter trip could help get the best out of him. He’s not competed over this distance since winning the Coral Hurdle in 2014 but is more than capable of rolling back the years this Thursday.

Final Verdict: Faugheen to win

Given the dominance of the top three in the betting in this race, you have to fancy one of Buveur D’Air, Melon or Faugheen to triumph here. The distance looks too long for Melon though and the race favourite is too much of a risk at such a skinny price given his record this season. This leaves Irish Stayers’ Hurdle champion Faugheen at the standout candidate on what is his Aintree debut.

About the Aintree Hurdle: The Festival's Feature Hurdle

Aintree Racecourse and Hurdle
Rept0n1x, Wikimedia Commons (Image Cropped)

Aintree Racecourse is known the world over as the home of the Grand National. Not as many people know that the Grand National is just one part of a three day festival of the same name. The meeting begins with Grand National Thursday, which is headlined by the race we’re looking at here, the Aintree Hurdle.

Big Names for a Big Race

The Aintree Hurdle was introduced to the Grand National Festival in 1976. It’s always been open to horses aged four and older but has changed slightly since that first renewal. For the first 12 years the Aintree Hurdle was run over a distance of 2m5½f before being cut by 1½f to the current distance in 1988.

It was an instant hit back in 1976. The first renewal was won by two-time Champion Hurdle victor, Comedy Of Errors. He set the early standard in terms of the calibre of horse to win the Aintree Hurdle and the same can be said of his trainer, Fred Rimell.

The much respected Rimell has since been joined by the likes of Toby Balding, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Nicky Henderson as a multiple winner of the Aintree Hurdle. Rimell was also a top class jockey and top class jockeys are very much the order of the day with this race. Dessie Hughes, Richard Dunwoody, Charlie Swan, Ruby Walsh, Tony McCoy and Barry Geraghty have all landed this one a number of times, with Walsh out on his own with a record five wins of 2018.

Chart Showing the Most Successful Aintree Hurdle Jockeys

Next Step for Champion Hurdle Contenders

There is a difference of three and a half furlongs between the Champion Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle. Nevertheless, the two races are comparative in terms of prestige and both carry huge prize funds so many of the leading challengers from the big hurdle race at the Cheltenham Festival go on to compete in the Aintree Hurdle.

That step up in distance and the slightly firmer ground that is often found at Aintree later in the year means that winning both races is very difficult, at least in the same season. It’s interesting to note that a number of horses have won the Aintree Hurdle a year or two after their success at Cheltenham. Whether that reflects horses maturing and being able to get longer trips or simply that Aintree is a tough track to win at, punters should bear in mind that a previous failure in the Aintree Hurdle from a top class performer is not necessarily fatal to their chance of winning future renewals.

On the flip side, some horses take an instant liking to Aintree which has provided several multiple winners of the Aintree Hurdle. Morley Street is the race’s undisputed king with four wins added to his single Champion Hurdle win in 1991.

Multiple Aintree Hurdle Winning Horses

HorseTrainerYears Victorious
Oscar Whisky Nicky Henderson 2011 2012    
Al Eile John Queally 2005 2007 2008  
Danoli Tom Foley 1994 1995    
Morley Street Toby Balding 1990 1991 1992 1993
Aonoch Sally Oliver 1986 1987    
Daring Run Peter McCreery 1981 1982    
Monksfield Des McDonogh 1977 (DH) 1978 1979  

Profiling an Aintree Hurdle Winner

The Aintree Hurdle is always a fascinating betting heat thanks to the number of storylines going into the race. That challenges punters not to allow themselves to get bogged down by detail that doesn’t help to find a winner.

We’ve already seen that top calibre winners are very much the order of the day for this Grade 1. That’s reflected in the betting where winners come almost exclusively from the top three in the market. That said, favourites don’t have a great record, perhaps because many of them haven’t contested 20 furlongs before which is an important trend to consider.

Horses between six and eight are right in the sweet spot in terms of age. Aintree Hurdle winners tend to be on the way up but still require a certain amount of experience. Specifically, at least one attempt at 20 furlongs is a plus, as is a run at Aintree and previous Grade 1 success.

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