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The Last Three Times the Favourite Didn’t Win the Champion Hurdle

Source: Unsplash

Horse racing is all about predictions. It’s about knowing the stats, watching the races, and analysing every little detail to determine who will come out on top. But sometimes, the unexpected happens.

Minus the Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle is the jewel in the Cheltenham Festival crown. Over £250,000 is awarded to the winner of the acclaimed race and that prize pot is expected to increase in 2024. And if you back Constitution Hill, you are fancying you're chances. That's because over the course of the last decade, the race has been won by the favourite on no fewer than seven occasions, including in 2023, with this year's current favourite reigning supreme in dominant fashion.

But what of the other three years? Well, on those occasions, an outsider managed to usurp the heavily backed odds leader to claim victory for themselves and their trainers. Those horses were...

2019 - Espoir d'Allen

In 2019, all eyes were on the reigning champion, Buveur d’Air, who was set to make history by winning the Champion Hurdle for the third time in a row. Oddsmakers that were providing all sorts of horse racing free bets prior to the race had made the reigning back-to-back champion a heavy favourite for glory however, as fate would have it, the race took a dramatic turn when he fell early on.

This opened the door for Espoir d’Allen, a horse with less experience and much longer odds - as long as 16/1 in fact - to take the lead. And once he had the lead, he never looked back, being rode to victory by Mark Walsh, with the pair romping home by a mighty 15 lengths.


Source: Unsplash

2017 - Buveur d'Air

Two years prior, it was Buveur d’Air himself who upset the odds and won the big race as an underdog. Despite being only the third choice in the betting, he raced to victory, beating out the likes of Yanworth and My Tent Or Yours. The win was a shock to many as demonstrated by his odds of 5/1 at the off. However, in 2018, he would prove it was no fluke, winning once again as a short-priced favourite and confirming what many pundits had known all along, that he was one of the finest horses on the planet.

2014 - Jezki

Back in 2014, the Champion Hurdle was dominated by one horse: The New One. He was the hot favourite going into the race, with odds of 5/2, and expectations were high. He even managed to go off at a shorter price than the dominant Hurricane Fly, who was the reigning champion and had won the esteemed showdown twice in his illustrious career.

But Jezki, a horse with less experience and only slightly lower odds had other plans. He started strong and maintained his lead throughout the race, crossing the finish line ahead of his more illustrious rivals. It was a victory that no one expected, especially with so many heavy hitters in the race but neither he nor Barry Geraghty on board let that distract them, holding off My Tent or Yours by a nose in one of the tightest finishes ever.