‘He deserves this’: Willie Mullins scores big in the Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle

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  • State Man made the most of long-time ante-post favourite Constitution Hill’s absence when taking the Unibet Champion Hurdle on day one of the Cheltenham Festival today (12 March), going one better than he did in the same race last year.

    The seven-year-old, ridden by Paul Townend, trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Mrs J Donnelly, went off 2/5 favourite and justified that, winning by 1¼ lengths over Irish Point, ridden by Jack Kennedy, trained by Gordon Elliott and owned by Robcour.

    “He’s a very simple horse to ride,” said Paul. “On the ground I could have probably waited a bit longer but I didn’t doubt his stamina. He’s an old favourite of mine and he deserves a big win like this.

    “He’s a champion back home and only Constitution Hill was too good for him last year – he deserves his day in the sun. To add my name to the Champion Hurdle winner list is special.”

    Mr Mullins said of State Man’s victory: “I thought Paul would be much more forward on him – I didn’t think he would be fifth jumping the fourth last. He rode with supreme confidence and I never thought he would be that far back and I thought he would be making more use of his stamina. He probably thought the ground would take enough stamina out of the other horses with the [softer] ground.”

    Mr Mullins went on to say:  “There’s no wow-factor with State Man, but he does what it says on the tin – he’s that type of horse. It’s very hard to be ‘wow’ in that ground, but he’s a good, solid, sound horse and he just gives his running every time. He’s a hardy horse and a tough horse, and a few more like him wouldn’t do any harm.

    Trainer Nicky Henderson finished best of the Brits in third with Luccia, ridden by James Bowen and owned by Pump & Plant Services Ltd.

    “She’s been great all of the way through – she might be going to stud, but I’ve got to convince [owner] Paul to have another bash. She’s grown up today,” said Mr Henderson, who went on to comment about how Constitution Hill is at home “We’ve got a long, long way to go with him.”

    Highland Hunter, ridden by Paddy Brennan, trained by Fergal O’Brien and owned by Nic Brereton and Lindsey Brennan was fatally injured when pulled up in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

    The Champion Hurdle gets underway at 3.30pm this afternoon (12 March) during the opening day of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the big race, from this year’s runners and riders, and how to watch, to what prize money the winner will be taking home.

    State Man, trained by Willie Mullins is favourite to win, with Irish Point, trained by Gordon Elliott and Iberico Lord his biggest rivals. British trainer Kerry Lee could also be in with a shout with Nemean Lion, ridden by Richard Patrick.

    Who were the runners in the 2024 race?

    Horse: State Man | Jockey: Paul Townend | Owner: Mrs J Donnelly
    Trainer: Willie Mullins

    Irish Point | Jack Kennedy | Owner: Robcour
    Gordon Elliott

    Iberico Lord | Nico de Boinville | Owner: JP McManus
    Nicky Henderson

    Zarak The Brave | Daryl Jacob | Owner: Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
    Willie Mullins

    Luccia | James Bowen | Owner: Pump & Plant Services Ltd.
    Nicky Henderson

    Nemean Lion | Richard Patrick | Owner: Will Roseff
    Kerry Lee

    Not So Sleepy | Jonathan Burke | Owner: Lady Blyth
    Hughie Morrison

    Colonel Mustard | J J Slevin | Owner: Mrs A Frost, P G Davies and R H Fowler
    Mrs Lorna Fowler

    What were the betting odds for this year’s runners?

    The following odds were correct at the time of publishing and may vary between bookmakers.

    State Man: 1/3
    Irish Point: 13/2
    Iberico Lord: 11/1
    Zarak The Brave: 25/1
    Luccia: 28/1
    Nemean Lion: 33/1
    Not So Sleepy: 33/1
    Colonel Mustard: 66/1

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    About the Champion Hurdle

    The Cheltenham Champion Hurdle is a Grade One National Hunt hurdle race, run over two miles and half a furlong with eight flights of hurdles to jump. The race is held on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival in March, which runs from Tuesday-Friday, and a massive highlight of the National Hunt season.

    When was the 2024 Champion Hurdle?

    The race will start at 3.30pm on Tuesday 12 March.

    How to watch the Champion Hurdle

    You can watch the race from home on ITV Racing and Racing TV at 3.30pm on Tuesday 12 March.

    What was the prize money for winning?

    The winner of the 2024 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy will take home £253,215.

    Recent winners

    2023: Constitution Hill – read race report
    2022: Honeysuckle – read race report
    2021: Honeysuckle – read the race report
    2020: Epitante – read the race report
    2019: Espoir D’Allen – read the race report
    2018: Buveur D’Air – read the race report
    2017: Buveur D’Air – read the race report
    2016: Annie Power – read the race report
    2015: Faugheen – read the race report
    2014: Jezki – read the race report
    2013: Hurricane Fly – read the race report
    2012: Rock On Ruby – read the race report
    2011: Hurricane Fly – read the race report

    Winning-most trainer, horse, jockey and owner

    The all-time leading Champion Hurdle trainer is Nicky Henderson, who has so far won it a total of nine times, thanks to See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010), Beveur D’Air (2017, 2018), Epatante (2020) and Constitution Hill (2023). Five horses have won three Champion Hurdles, which is the current record. These are Hatton’s Grace (1949-51), Sir Ken (1952-54), Persian War (1968-70), See You Then and Istabraq (1998-2000). Three jockeys have won the race four times, which sits at the current record. These are Tim Molony, Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty. And the leading Cheltenham Gold Cup owner, J. P. McManus, has so far won it nine times  – three times with Istabraq, as well as with Binocular, Jezki (2014) and Beveur D’Air.

    The history of the Champion Hurdle

    The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdle race in the British National Hunt calendar. The race was first to run in 1927. That inaugural race was won by Blaris, earning connections £365.

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