Boxing Day is one of the biggest and most highly anticipated days of horse racing in the National Hunt season. It is not just the amount of racing action to enjoy that excites racing fans, it is the quality of the racing on offer.
The Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle is as high quality a race as any other taking place on Boxing Day, save the King George VI Chase. This two miler is the second leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling and as such has been won by many of the best hurdlers around since its introduction in 1969.
Christmas Hurdle Course Map (Jumps Course)
Christmas Hurdle Past Winners
|2022||Constitution Hill||1/7||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2021||Epatante||4/5||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2020||Silver Streak||13/2||Evan Williams||Adam Wedge|
|2019||Epatante||2/1||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2018||Verdana Blue||11/2||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2017||Buveur d’Air||2/11||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2016||Yanworth||5/4||Alan King||Barry Geraghty|
|2015||Faugheen||1/4||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2014||Faugheen||4/11||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2013||My Tent Or Yours||11/8||Nicky Henderson||A P McCoy|
|2012||Darlan||3/1||Nicky Henderson||A P McCoy|
|2011||Binocular||5/4||Nicky Henderson||A P McCoy|
|2010||Binocular||13/8||Nicky Henderson||Tony McCoy|
|2009||Go Native||5/2||Noel Meade||Davy Condon|
|2008||Harchibald||7/1||Noel Meade||Paul Carberry|
|2007||Straw Bear||9/2||Nick Gifford||Tony McCoy|
|2006||Jazz Messenger||10/1||Noel Meade||Niall Madden|
|2005||Feathard Lady||6/4||Colm Murphy||Ruby Walsh|
|2004||Harchibald||8/11||Noel Meade||Paul Carberry|
|2003||Intersky Falcon||11/4||Jonjo O'Neill||Laim Cooper|
About the Christmas Hurdle: A Quality Christmas Jumper
It really is a Christmas cracker of a meeting at Kempton Park each Boxing Day with no fewer than three Grade 1 contests on offer. The first of the bunch – and the only one of the day to take place over the smaller obstacles – is the ever popular Christmas Hurdle.
A Handicap Reborn as a Grade 1
First run at the track in 1969, the Christmas Hurdle is effectively an upgrade of a handicap contest which took place at the venue earlier in the 1960’s before being disbanded in 1967.
Now a Grade 1 affair open to horses aged four and older, and held over the Champion Hurdle distance of two miles, the race attracts a similarly high class field to the Cheltenham showpiece. Together with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle itself, the Christmas Hurdle makes up what some refer to as hurdling’s Triple Crown.
Triple Crown of Hurdling Races
|1||Fighting Fifth Hurdle||Newcastle||November|
Between the years of 2006 and 2010, there was a whopping £1 million bonus on offer to any runner who managed to win all three races.
Redevelopment and Frost The Only Interruptions
Every edition of this race to date has taken place at its Kempton Park home, with just the one exception. Due to a redevelopment of the facilities at Kempton in 2005 the race took place at nearby Sandown Park that year.
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering this race is held in Britain in the middle of winter, the elements have proven to be too much to overcome at times. Not all that often though, with just four editions having been abandoned to date, in 1970, 1981, 1995 and 1996.
Younger Legs Hold The Edge
With this race taking place over what is the minimum distance for a hurdling contest, the emphasis is placed more upon the speed than the stamina of the performers. As such it perhaps isn’t surprising to see that, more often than not, the older contenders have struggled to keep pace with their younger rivals. Bird’s Nest and Harchibald did defy that trend to a certain degree when scoring as nine year olds, but we are yet to have a horse in double digit years come home in front. The chart below breaks down the number of winners by age, up to and including 2021.
McCoy On Top Of Christmas Hurdle Tree
A selection of the all-time greats have tasted their share of success here over the years, with the greatest of them all sitting out in front as the jockey with the most wins in the history of this race, as of 2021. Tony McCoy is of course now retired so won’t be adding to his total, as are big rivals Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty.
All That Glitters Is Green And Gold
The one thing each of McCoy’s winners had in common is that they all sported the famous green and gold silks of one of Sir Anthony’s biggest supporters over the years, JP McManus. With nine wins in total, McManus does seem to have a particular affinity with this race. He has of course been aided by owning some of the very best two mile hurdlers in recent times, with the likes of Binocular and Buveur D’Air landing the Champion Hurdle in addition to this contest. Given the quality of field this race regularly attracts, that duo likely won’t be the last past or future Champion Hurdlers to come home in front.
JP McManus’s Christmas Hurdle Wins
|Year||Horse (SP)||Trainer / Jockey||Winnings|
|2021||Epatante (4/5F)||N. Henderson / N de Boinville||£74k|
|2019||Epatante (2/1JF)||N. Henderson / B Geraghty||£74k|
|2017||Buveur D’Air (2/11F)||N. Henderson / B Geraghty||£68k|
|2016||Yanworth (5/4F)||A. King / B. Geraghty||£57k|
|2013||My Tent Or Yours (11/8)||N. Henderson / AP McCoy||£57k|
|2012||Darlan (3/1)||N. Henderson / AP McCoy||£48k|
|2011||Binocular (5/4F)||N. Henderson / AP McCoy||£37k|
|2011*||Binocular (13/8F)||N. Henderson / AP McCoy||£43k|
|2007||Straw Bear (9/2)||N. Gifford / AP McCoy||£63k|
*The 2010 Christmas Hurdle was run on the 15th January 2011 due to frost and snow cancelling the Boxing Day meeting.