Saturday 4 March 2023

Ascot Hurdle

The Ascot Hurdle is a Grade 2 hurdle race run over 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 58 yards on the course from which it takes its name in November. Open to horses aged four years and upwards, the race was inaugurated in 1978, but has been sponsored by Coral since 2006 so, for sponsorship purposes, as the Coral Hurdle. In 2004 and 2005, during the multi-million redevelopment of Ascot, the Ascot Hurdle was run over 2 miles and 4 furlongs at nearby Windsor.

Worth £40,000 in guaranteed prize money, the Ascot Hurdle is obviously a prestigious and valuable contest in its own right, but its position in the National Hunt calendar makes it an appropriate early-season 'stepping stone' for horses with aspirations of winning the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. In fact, in its history, a total of seven winners of the Ascot Hurdle, including three dual winners, have also won the Champion Hurdle before or after their Ascot victory.

In chronological order, they were Dawn Run (1983), Gaye Brief (1984, 1985), Morley Street (1990, 1991), Hardy Eustace (2006, 2007), Annie Power (2013), Faugheen (2014) and Rock On Ruby (2015). Dawn Run, of course, remains the only horse in history to have won both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

As far as the most successful trainer in the history of the Ascot Hurdle is concerned, although long retired, Martin Pipe, with five winners – Sabin Du Loir (1987, 1988), Pridwell (1997), Wahiba Sands (1999) and Mr. Cool (2003) – still holds sway. Those in search of more useful statistics ahead of the 2022 renewal, schedule for 2:40pm on Saturday, November 19, may like to note that ten of the last dozen winners had won at least four times over hurdles, including at least once at Graded level.