Wednesday 23 October 2019

Watch: Espoir D'Allen becomes the first five-year-old to win the Champion Hurdle in 34 years

Jockey Mark Walsh on his way to winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy with Espoir D'allen during Champion Day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Jockey Mark Walsh on his way to winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy with Espoir D'allen during Champion Day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Nick Robson

Espoir D'Allen produced a coming-of-age performance to claim a brilliant victory in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

A field of 10 runners went to post for the two-mile showpiece and much of the pre-race chat focused on dual winner Buveur D'Air being taken on by Irish mares Apple's Jade and Laurina.

The Gordon Elliott-trained Apple's Jade was the marginal favourite at 7-4 and challenged last year's runner-up Melon for the lead throughout, after Buveur D'Air provoked gasps from the grandstands as he crashed out in the early stages.

However, it was clear some way from home that she was in trouble and as she dropped away racing down the hill, Melon remained in front, with his stablemate Laurina travelling strongly in his slipstream.

But all the while Mark Walsh was biding his time aboard 16-1 shot Espoir D'Allen - who had won each of his three previous starts this season for trainer Gavin Cromwell - and he shot clear from the home turn to seal a hugely-impressive victory by 15 lengths.

Melon boxed on to finish second again, with 80-1 shot Silver Streak in third and Laurina fourth.

Buveur D'Air - bidding to become just the sixth horse in history to win the Champion Hurdle three times - appeared none the worse for his mishap and actually finished upsides the winner crossing the line.

Cromwell said: "I'm just lost for words. It's brilliant, unbelievable.

"He's been winning Grade Threes this year, so to win this is fantastic."

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