Ten of the Best: No 5 Champion Hurdle 1995

This is a rare story of when everything went right.

The field for the 1995 Champion Hurdle was a strong one. Joint favourites were the great Irish hope Danoli and that decent horse Large Action. Two other interesting challengers from Ireland included AIG Champion Hurdle winner Fortune and Fame and Montelado, impressive winner of the Supreme two years earlier though only having his first run since. Also Mysilv, the previous year’s Triumph Hurdle winner and Absalom’s Lady, the Christmas Hurdle winner.

However, the horse that took my eye was one that had just had one previous run over hurdles less than 3 weeks earlier. That horse was Alderbrook, trained by Kim Bailey and ridden by Norman Williamson.

That previous run had been the Kingwell Hurdle, which he had won easily enough but being pitched into this deep a Champion Hurdle was going to be a totally different challenge. Alderbrook was a tough horse all right. Before Wincanton he had won the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend and two runs after Cheltenham was placed in the Group 1 Prix Ganay.

I had this race all figured out. Mysilv would take them along, Large Action would jump the last in front with Alderbrook about to make his challenge, and then the latter’s superior flat speed would take the son of Ardross clear on the run in. And that’s basically what happened.

It’s not often that you get it so right, but this was a race that went totally to plan. If I remember rightly, I only backed two winners in the 1995 Festival, the other one being Master Oats in the Gold Cup, giving Bailey and Williamson an amazing double.

Twelve months later it didn’t quite go to plan though as Collier Bay got first run on Alderbrook and was able to hold him off comfortably enough. And after winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle the following month that was it, Alderbrook was off to stud – quite a rarity for a Cheltenham winner.

But in March 1995, he was electric, I was spot on, all was as it should be.

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