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Monday 18 September 2023

Aintree Hurdle


As the name suggests, the Aintree Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle race run over 2 miles and 4 furlongs on the Mildmay Course at Aintree in April. Inaugurated, as a Grade 2 contest over 2 miles and 5½ furlongs, in 1976, the race was shortened to its current distance in 1988 and promoted to Grade 1 status three years later. Interestingly, while the Aintree Hurdle is open to horses aged four years and upwards, no four-year-old has ever won.

Morley Street, trained by the late Gerald 'Toby' Balding, won four consecutive renewals of the Aintree Hurdle, in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993, and is the most successful horse in the history of the race. Balding, who died in September, 2014, also saddled Beech Road to victory in 1989 and, alongside Nicky Henderson, is jointly the most successful trainer. In 2010, for one year only, the name of Dick Francis – Champion National Hunt Jockey in 1953/54, but probably best known for his calamitous ride on Devon Loch in the Grand National – was added to the race title, following his death in February that year.

The 2023 renewal of the Aintree Hurdle is scheduled for 3.30pm on Thursday, April 7 – the opening day of the three-day Grand National Festival at Aintree – in the same spot it has occupied since 2013. Not altogether surprisingly, the Aintree Hurdle is often contested, and won, by horses that ran in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the previous month. In the last decade, Annie Power (2016) and Buveur D'Air (2017) won both races in the same season, while Zarkandar (2013), The New One (2014), Jezki (2015) and Epatante (2022) ran with credit at Cheltenham before winning at Aintree.


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