The hurdlers take centre stage on day four of the excellent Punchestown Festival in this event which has been landed by some true legends of the game over the years, with the likes of four-time hero Hurricane Fly, double winner Honeysuckle, and Faugheen “The Machine”, featuring on the roll of honour.
Willie Mullins has won eight Punchestown Champion Hurdles, four more than the second best trainer, Jessica Harrington, who has four wins.
Punchestown Champion Hurdle Course Map (Hurdle Course)
Punchestown Champion Hurdle Past Winners
|2023||State Man||2/5||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2022||Honeysuckle||1/5||Henry de Bromhead||Rachael Blackmore|
|2021||Honeysuckle||4/7||Henry de Bromhead||Rachael Blackmore|
|2019||Buveur D'Air||2/1||Nicky Henderson||Davy Russell|
|2018||Supasundae||7/1||Jessica Harrington||Robbie Power|
|2017||Wicklow Brave||12/1||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
|2016||Vroum Vroum Mag||4/6||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2015||Faugheen||1/6||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2014||Jezki||4/5||Jessica Harrington||Tony McCoy|
|2013||Hurricane Fly||1/4||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2012||Hurricane Fly||4/11||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2011||Hurricane Fly||1/2||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2010||Hurricane Fly||3/1||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2009||Solwhit||2/1||Charles Byrnes||Davy Russell|
|2008||Punjabi||2/1||Nicky Henderson||Barry Geraghty|
|2007||Silent Oscar||20/1||Harry Rogers||Robbie Power|
|2006||Macs Joy||11/4||Jessica Harrington||Barry Geraghty|
|2005||Brave Inca||2/1||Colm Murphy||A P McCoy|
|2004||Hardy Eustace||3/1||Dessie Hughes||Conor O'Dwyer|
About the Punchestown Champion Hurdle: Friday’s Flying Feature
The Cheltenham Festival contains many of the best contests in National Hunt racing. Such is the popularity of these races that they have led to races with similar names and profiles cropping up at other venues.
The Punchestown Champion Hurdle is one such race. It’s run at the annual Punchestown Festival which takes place in the spring either in late April or early May. It often attracts leading Irish contenders from its Cheltenham equivalent but running at Prestbury Park is by no means a prerequisite for success.
Quality Horses Make a Quality Contest
One of the most interesting elements of the Punchestown Champion Hurdle is its timing. Certain horses only find their best performance levels during the spring which makes analysing the form over the earlier parts of the season a little tricky. Coming at the end of the season also means that leading novice hurdlers are sometimes given the chance to compete in more experienced company as was the case in the 2018 renewal when Samcro was entered.
It wasn’t to be for Gordon Elliott’s young star as he fell three from home. The same fate awaited the second favourite, Melon, which allowed Supasundae to score. Not to take anything away from Supasundae who is a gutsy competitor but it was a surprise win. The Punchestown Champion Hurdle is usually won by top class horses from the top two in the betting and despite that result that’s where we would advise you focus your attention in most renewals.
Just a cursory look at the list of winners since the first edition in 1999 shows that this is a high calibre contest. Hurricane Fly is the undisputed king of the Punchestown Champion Hurdle having won it four years in a row. In two of those years he went into the race as the reigning Champion Hurdler from Cheltenham. Honeysuckle won the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle in 2021 and 2022 and followed with success at Punchestown in both of those years.
As the table below shows, no Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner has finished worse than second when competing at Punchestown next time out.
Looking Beyond Cheltenham
The Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham has provided plenty winners of its Punchestown equivalent but it’s far from the only race that punters should pay attention to. Specifically, the December Festival Hurdle, held every year at Leopardstown’s Christmas Meeting, has featured several Punchestown Champion Hurdle winners.
Hurricane Fly won the December Festival Hurdle before three of his Punchestown Champion Hurdle wins and Istabraq was a four time winner including in 1999. Moscow Flyer completed the double in the 2000/2001 season whilst Solwhit, Brave Inca and Macs Joy all won both races, just not in the same season.
Dual December Festival Hurdle & Punchestown Champion Hurdle Winners: 1997 – 2022
|Horse||December Festival Hurdle Wins||Punchestown Champion Hurdle Wins|
|Hurricane Fly||2010, 2012, 2013, 2014||2010, 2011, 2012, 2013|
|Brave Inca||2005, 2006||2005|
|Istabraq||1997, 1998, 1999, 2001||1999|
One for the Home Fans
The head to head battle between British and Irish horses is a constant feature during the Cheltenham Festival. Nobody really talks about it at the Punchestown Festival as it is utterly dominated by Irish horses and trainers as you would expect.
That dominance very much stretches to the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. The Irish pair of Willie Mullins (eight wins) and Jessica Harrington (four wins) are the only trainers to saddle more than two winners of this race. In fact, Nicky Henderson is the only British trainer to have wins in the race courtesy of Punjabi in 2008, partnered by Barry Geraghty, and Buveur D’Air in 2019 ridden by Davy Russell.