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.
Next Race: Sunday, 26th December 2021
The next race is scheduled to run on 26th December 2021. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 26th December 2020
- Winner: Silver Streak
- SP: 13/2
- Trainer: Evan Williams
- Jockey: Adam Wedge
It has been a full decade since organisers had to postpone this popular race due to bad weather. Fortunately, the chance of a repeat 10 years on seem extremely slim with forecasters expecting a rather mild Boxing Day in Surrey. There will be no crowd in attendance of course, with the area in a Tier 4 lockdown, but the action is televised meaning you do not have to miss out.
The going is not expected to be too testing, with soft ground the worst we should get. This one has been won by some true greats over the years and we should be in for a fine race again. With a total purse in excess of £100,000 and seven set to go to post, this Grade 1 contest is more than just a support to the feature of the day.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good to soft||2 miles||Grade 1||£105,000||7||1/4 1-2|
Christmas Hurdle Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Nicky Henderson is a man who regularly has a significant presence in this race. Winner of seven of the last 10 editions of the Christmas Hurdle, he is back again this year looking to improve on his formidable record. Largely thanks to his dominance, this race has not been one for surprises. Since 2009, the longest-odds winner we have seen came home at a mere 3/1. We’ve seen both Buveur d’Air (2/11) and Faugheen (4/11) win at really short odds in that time. Amazingly over the last decade we have seen seven winning favourites and so it will be no surprise to see defending champ and market leader Epatante very well backed.
In terms of trainers it is no surprise to see Henderson boasting a handsome level stakes profit, whilst Noel Meade has also tended to do very well in this one. Other trends to note are that all 20 of the last 20 winners had previously won over this trip and had also tasted victory in graded company. Fans of age trends will also want to be aware that no four year old has won this contest since Kerawi in 1997. 10 of the last 20 renewals have been won by a six year old, another reason to think that Epatante, who won last year at the age of five, will take some beating.
|Epatante||1/3||162||Nicky Henderson||Aidan Coleman|
|Floressa||16/1||144||Nicky Henderson||Jeremiah McGrath|
Epatante – 1/3
We would love to tell you there will be a big-odds upset in this race but we just cannot see it happening. This race has Epatante written all over it and even at her skinny price we will not hesitate to add the mare to our betting slip. Since winning this contest in hugely impressive style last year, the French-bred horse has only gotten better, as you would expect from a horse only six-years-old. Now rated 12lbs higher than this time last year, it is looking like taking an uncharacteristic blunder on her part for us to have a new Christmas Hurdle champion.
Had Epatante been coming into the race following a lengthy absence, we would perhaps not be as confident. However, the mare was out at Newcastle last month for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle where she scored a fourth consecutive victory in rather comfortable fashion. You could argue that her afternoon was made easier by Silver Streak’s misfortune of being badly hampered by a loose horse, and subsequently carried out.
Evan William’s horse is the 9/2 second favourite as the pair meet again but he was badly outclassed when the two went head-to-head in March’s Champion Hurdle. You should also remember that Silver Streak noticeably lacked the final stretch pace to match Epatante during the last year’s Christmas Hurdle. Epatante is 100% the right favourite and even at the prices looks solid value.
Floressa – 16/1
Given Henderson’s impressive record in this race, it is not unreasonable to think he could secure a one-two finish this time around. Should he pull this off however, you can be sure that the first spot will be taken by Epatante rather than her younger stablemate. Henderson admitted in the build up to this race that he needed persuading by Floressa’s owners to give her a chance in this one. He added that “even they know Floressa isn’t going to win” but did add that “there is Grade One black type in there for placed horses”.
We would fully agree with his opinion that while a win is out of the question, sneaking into second place is well within her capabilities. She is a runner very accustomed to this distance and one that has proven to be an extremely consistent performer. Only in one of her eight career starts has the mare failed to finish in the top two, the exception coming at the Cheltenham Festival.
On her last outing she clocked a very decent time to fend off the opposition in a Listed limited handicap at Newbury, known as the Garry Fielden. Interestingly, this was the precise race Epatante won before her triumph in last year’s Christmas Hurdle. The win is probably too much to ask but at 16/1 an each way punt is certainly worth considering.
Christmas Hurdle Winners
|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|
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 2019.
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 2019. McCoy is of course now retired so won’t be adding to his total as is big rival Ruby Walsh. Barry Geraghty may have a few seasons left in him yet to close the gap though with 3 wins to date.
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 eight 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|
|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.