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.

Colin Tizzard

Colin Tizzard  Dorset dairy farmer turned trainer Colin Tizzard first took out a full training licence in 1998, but in the two decades since has gone from strength to strength and, in 2018, enjoyed his best season yet, numerically, with 1979 winners.

Tizzard saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Cue Card, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2010. A 40/1 outsider on that occasion, Cue Card became a flag bearer for the yard in subsequent seasons. He finished fourth, when favourite, behind Al Ferof in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2011, clear second behind impressive winner Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2012 and made all to beat First Lieutenant by 9 lengths in the Ryanair Chase in 2013. He twice fell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when well fancied, including in 2016, when chasing a £1 million Triple Crown bonus, having already won the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

However, on the previous day, Tizzard had already saddled Thistlecrack to a facile, 7-length win over Alpha Des Obeaux and ten other rivals in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Afterwards,Tizzard spoke of not having to be part of a “big battalion” to find a superstar and, two years later, he appeared to have found another when Native River, ridden by Richard Johnson, fought off a determined challenge by eventual runner-up, Might Bite, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Heading into the final day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, Tizzard had drawn a blank at the meeting and seen the ever popular Cue Card pulled up in what turned out to be his final race in the Ryanair Chase the previous day. However, Kilbricken Storm caused a 33-1 upset when winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and, 40 minutes later, Native River provided a fairytale ending to the week and, in so doing, became his seventh Cheltenham Festival winner.

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.”