How many mares have won the Champion Hurdle?
The race now acknowledged as the two-mile hurdling championship, the Champion Hurdle, was established in 1927 and, in 91 runnings since, has been won on six occasions by six different mares. African Sister, ridden by Keith Piggott, father of Lester, was the first to strike a blow for the fairer sex, in the last Champion Hurdle to be run before the outbreak of World War II, in 1939.
However, it would be another 45 years before Dawn Run – who would later make history by becoming the only horse to complete the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup double – carried Jonjo O’Neill to victory for Paddy Mullins, father of Willie, in 1984. A decade later, Flakey Dove, trained by Richard Price and ridden by Mark Dwyer, added her name to the roll of honour, but there was another lengthy hiatus before the arrival of the next winning mare.
Nevertheless, in 2016, Willie Mullins emulated his father by winning the Champion Hurdle with Annie Power and, in the style of ‘London buses’, her victory was quickly followed by those of Epatante in 2020 and Honeysuckle in 2021. Indeed, in recent years, the dominance of the likes of Epatante and Honeysuckle in the two-mile hurdling division has led some observers to call for the abolition of the 7lb weight-for-sex allowance that mares currently receive from their male counterparts in ‘championship’ races, such as the Champion Hurdle. Proponents of the move argue, with some justification, that the result of such races should be determined on merit alone, regardless of the sex of the participants.