The Christmas Hurdle is a Grade One event held on the first day of the Winter Festival at Kempton Park Racecourse. The festival itself features twelve jump races, three of which are top-class events including the Christmas Hurdle, Kauto Star Novices' Chase, and King George VI Steeplechase. This hurdle race is also recognized as the second leg of the 'Hurdling Triple Crown' which also includes the Fighting Fifth and the Champion Hurdle. While its purse has consistently amounted to only £100,000 for the past decade, the Christmas Hurdle is still considered one of the top hurdle races of the year.
The Christmas Hurdle is a Grade One event open to horses aged four and over. It is run over a distance of two miles along a right-handed course and features eight hurdles to be negotiated by all horses. The weight requirement varies based on gender with males carrying 11 stones-7 pounds and females carrying 11 stones.
location: Kempton Park
grade: Grade 1
race type: Hurdle
The history of this raceis a relatively short one when compared to some of the popular classics. Some of the major races in the UK go back almost 200 years. However,this doesn't alter the fact that the Christmas Hurdle is a popular Grade Onerace,becauseit is held over Christmas time, and it is a part of the Hurdle Triple Crown.
This race evolved from a handicap race held at Kempton Park on Boxing Day during the 1960s known as the Kempton Park Handicap Hurdle. The race was suspended in 1967 and 1968, only to be reintroduced in 1969 as the more aptly named Christmas Hurdle. The purse for the Christmas Hurdle itself is a slightly less impressive £100,000 (as of 2016).
Over the past five decades or so since the first Christmas Hurdle was run in 1969, top hurdlers have made this leg of the 'Hurdle Triple Crown' an important career target. If not for profit, then for the prestige. Of course, while the profit may not compare to the Champion Hurdle, which is nearly half a million, it is still a rich prize in the world of hurdle racing, as opposed to flat racing which gets much more attention and investment by comparison (as of 2017) .
Seven thoroughbreds have won the Christmas Hurdle multiple times since its inaugural running. These include Coral Diver (1969, 1971), Lanzarote (1973, 1975), Kribensis (1988, 1989), Intersky Falcon (2002, 2003), Harchibald (2004, 2008), Binocular (2010, 2011), and Faugheen (2014, 2015).
The trainer with the most wins is currently Nicky Henderson with six victories from Geos in 2000 to My Tent Or Yours in 2013. Double winner Binocular is included in his record wins.
The fastest winning time of 3m: 38.30sec was achieved in 1988 by double winner Kribensis in 1988.
The jockey with the most wins is Tony McCoy with five victories from Straw Bear in 2007 to My Tent Or Yours in 2013. Like Henderson, McCoy also can claim to have had a hand in Binocular's double victory.
During its brief history, the Christmas Hurdle has provided its share of thrilling moments in hurdle racing. Modern hurdle champions, such as Kribensis, Faugheen, and Binocular, have left a lasting impression on the memories of racing fans. Below are a few of the best moments of the Christmas Hurdle (as of 2017) .
Kribensis is notable for being the only horse to win the 'Hurdle Triple Crown' consisting of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Christmas Hurdle, and Champion Hurdle.
While no thoroughbred has yet matched Kribensis' Triple Crown win, three have managed to win both the Christmas Hurdle and prestigious Champion Hurdle. These include Lanzarote, Dawn Run, Binocular, and Faugheen.
When a long shot wins, it makes for an especially memorable occasion. In 2006, 10/1 shot Jazz Messenger won the Christmas Hurdle making him the longest odds winner of the past few decades.