By News Team
10th March 2021
Picking a top 5 of Champion Hurdle winners is no easy task, though deciding who tops the list was actually very easy when Nick Luck, AP McCoy and Nigel Twiston-Davies sat down to discuss.
In case you can’t see your favourite in the top five watch the full video to see why Nick, AP and Nigel left them off the list.
The likes of this year’s favourite Epatante and recent dual winner Buveur D’Air were late considerations, but didn’t quite cut it, while Espoir D’Allen, Annie Power and Binocular, amongst others, were all considered.
Here is the countdown…
In 5th place – Faugheen
Commonly known as Faugheen ‘The Machine’, Willie Mullins popular jumper earns a place in the top five Champion Hurdlers since the turn of the millennium.
Sent off at 4/5f for the 2015 renewal, the then seven-year-old defeated a high-class field that included Hurricane Fly, Jezki and The New One.
There’s the feeling amongst many racing fans that Faugheen could have been placed higher up the pecking order, but 20-time Champion Jockey AP McCoy, who won three Champion Hurdles, couldn’t put him any higher on the list, despite agreeing he had “the wow factor”.
Nick Luck summed up Faugheen’s brilliance by saying: “He went into the Champion Hurdle unbeaten, and he won it with a devastating performance,” adding, “he may have won several (if it wasn’t for an injury setbacks)”.
Nigel Twiston-Davies therefore kept him rooted to the fifth spot, stating “it’s hard to put him ahead of horses who have won more than one Champion Hurdle.”
In 4th place – Brave Inca
Winner of the 2006 renewal under McCoy, Brave Inca is rated as the fourth greatest Champion Hurdle winner of the millennium.
AP believes the early 2000s was a stronger era for the division and therefore had to put Brave Inca above Faugheen, while the legendary jockey also revealed how confident he was about Brave Inca winning the race that year: “I genuinely thought for the whole year Brave Inca was a certainty to win his Champion Hurdle.”
In 3rd place – Hardy Eustace
Closely matched on form with Brave Inca but superior in the fact that he won two Champion Hurdles, the Dessie Hughes-trained Hardy Eustace gets the nod for the bronze medal position.
Not only was Hardy Eustace a superstar performer in the Champion Hurdle, he also won at Cheltenham as a novice, bolstering his claims of being amongst the greats.
AP McCoy said, “because he won two Champion Hurdles and the two-and-a-half mile novice chase the season before, he’d be hard to get rid of (from the top 5).”
And with the likes of Macs Joy and Harchibald in competition, the panel agreed Hardy Eustace had to be up there.
In 2nd place – Hurricane Fly
The legendary 22-time Grade 1 winner Hurricane Fly had to settle for second.
Imperious in the two-mile hurdling division from 2010-2014, Willie Mullins’ charge deserves his place at the top table, even if he was never at his best at Cheltenham, according to the panel.
Asking the question, Nick Luck said: “At Cheltenham, was he ever quite at his very, very, very best?”, to which AP suggested, “he won two Champion Hurdles, and for the third one Ruby [Walsh] said he didn’t travel up and they were in a bad position on the day.”
Whichever way you look at it, though, ‘The Fly’ is a Champion Hurdle legend.
The winner – Istabraq
No questions asked, Istabraq, who won three straight Champion Hurdles, shot straight to the top of the tree with little debate between the three.
“He’s got to be at the top”, said Nigel Twiston-Davies. “Any horse that’s done it time and time again has got to be there.”
“He had it all. He was a brilliant jumper, could stay, had speed. He’s the ultimate really”, said AP.
Istabraq’s Cheltenham record is outstanding with four wins from five runs, while he also claimed four consecutive Irish Champion Hurdles