Alderbrook

Alderbrook  Alderbrook, who died in 2007, at the age of 18, after a highly successful stud campaign, was a useful performer on the Flat, but will always be remembered for his remarkable victory in the Champion Hurdle in 1995. The six-year-old was not only a first Cheltenham Festival winner for trainer Kim Bailey and jockey Norman Williamson, but also the least experienced horse ever to win a Champion Hurdle, after just two previous starts over obstacles.

 

Alderbrook was first tried over hurdles, without much distinction, by his previous trainer Sally Hall, as a three-year-old in December 1992. However, having developed into a Group class performer on the Flat for new trainer Kim Bailey, he didn’t race again under National Hunt rules until the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February 1995. On that occasion, he was always going well and quickened clear on the run-in to beat Trying Again by 8 lengths.

 

Entered in the Champion Hurdle almost as an afterthought by owner Eric Pick, after intensive coaching by celebrated equine guru Yogi Bresner Alderbrook was sent off at just 11/2, behind joint favourites Large Action and Danoli at 4/1. His performance was almost a carbon copy of that of Wincanton; he made steady headway on the bit from just after halfway, challenged at the final flight and quickened clear in the closing stages to beat his nearest market rivals by 5 lengths and 2 lengths.

 

Alderbrook ran just three more times over hurdles, comfortably winning two Grade 2 contests, including the Scottish Champion Hurdle and finishing second, beaten 2½, behind Collier Bay in the Champion Hurdle proper in 1996.

Binocular

Binocular  Owned by John P. McManus and trained by Nicky Henderson, Binocular is best remembered for winning the Champion Hurdle, under A.P. McCoy, in 2010. However, when was retired from racing in 2013, when a series of tests revealed an unspecified heart defect, he had won 11 of his 22 starts over hurdles, including the Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton (twice), as well as the Champion Hurdle.

 

Binocular made his first visit to the Cheltenham Festival in 2008, just two starts after joining Nicky Henderson from Elie Lellouche in France. Unfortunately, he tasted defeat for the first time in Britain, too, when beaten 2 lengths by Captain Cee Bee (also owned by J.P. McManus) in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Three impressive victories later, though, he lined up at Cheltenham again, this time as 6/4 favourite for the 2009 Champion Hurdle. He made a pretty good fist of winning it, too, going down in a driving finish, beaten a head and a neck, behind stable companion Punjabi.

 

At the start of the 2009/10 season, Binocular was beaten favourite in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, on both occasions behind Go Native. He justified odds of 1/7 when beating two vastly inferior rivals in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February, but later that month Nicky Henderson withdrew him from the Champion Hurdle.

 

However, after bone scans revealed no damage and Binocular did an outstanding piece of work at home, Henderson promptly changed his mind.Multiple champion jockey A.P. McCoy said of the workout, “I went as fast as I’ve ever gone schooling on a horse – I actually frightened myself – and for some reason he jumped like a proper Champion Hurdler should.”

 

Sent off at 9/1 for the Champion Hurdle, Binocular made smooth progress to lead at the second last flight and was well in command thereafter, eventually winning by 3½ lengths from Khyber Kim. Henderson later said of him, “He was the one horse who reminded me of [triple Champion Hurdle winner] See You Then. Watching him school some mornings, he was as good as you’ll ever see.”

Denman

Denman

When he retired from racing, as an 11-year-old, Denman had won 14 of his 24 starts, including the Hennessy Gold Cup (twice), the Royal & SunAlliance Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Owned by Paul Barber and the ebullient professional gambler Harry Findlay and trained by Paul Nicholls, Denman was unbeaten in his first four starts over hurdles, including an easy 21-length win in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in 2006. He returned to Cheltenham for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle the following March, but tasted defeat for the first time, going down by 2½ lengths to Nicanor.

 

Sent over fences in 2006/07, “The Tank”, as he became known, won all five starts, culminating with a convincing 10-length beating of Snowy Morning in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. After a break of 262 days, he reappeared at Newbury in December where, carrying 11st 12lb, he impressively won the Hennessy Gold Cup by 11 lengths from Dream Alliance.

 

He subsequently won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and the Aon Chase at Newbury the following February so, by the time the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup rolled around, he started at just 9/4 to dethrone the reigning champion, his stable companion Kauto Star. The forecast duel between the two Nicholls’ “big guns” never really materialised, though, because Denman went clear soon after the fourth last fence and, thereafter, Kauto Star could make no impression and eventually finished second, beaten 7 lengths.

 

In the September following his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph, Denman was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and, although he returned to training following treatment, it’s fair to say he was never, quite, the same horse again. He did manage to win the Hennessy Gold Cup for a second time, again under 11st 12lb, and finish second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010 and 2011, so Lord knows what he might have achieved had he stayed healthy for the whole of his career. Denman has enjoyed a happy retirement and currently looks after the young horses on the farm belonging to his owner Paul Barber.