The Lanzarote Hurdle

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It’s easy to understand how the Lanzarote Hurdle, run today at Kempton, got its name. It’s run in memory of the 1974 Champion Hurdle winner, Lanzarote, who was trained by Fred Winter and ridden most regularly by Richard Pitman.

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Lanzarote proved to be one of the top hurdlers of the 1970s, and when he beat reigning champion Comedy of Errors at Cheltenham it was his 10th consecutive victory. Included in these were two Christmas Hurdles at Kempton, and it was at the Sunbury track that he was most at home. That run of victories led him to begin on a rating of 177 by Timeform, which puts him in their top 10 hurdlers of all time.

Lanzarote was less successful when he turned to fencing, and his career came to an end the 1977 Cheltenham Gold cup, when he slipped jumping the ninth fence, broke his hind leg and had to be destroyed. He had by then a total of 20 wins from 33 races, and had earned the description from Brough Scott as, “a Henry Cooper of a horse – a powerful tiger on the course, yet gentle and quiet off it”.

In 1980, when the Lanzarote Hurdle was introduced to the racing schedule, it was run over a distance of two miles. That made perfect sense, as that was the distance over which Lanzarote had been particularly successful. In 2006, when the Kempton track was closed and under redevelopment, the race was switched to Carlisle, of all places, for one season.

When it returned to Kempton the following year it became to all intents and purposes a brand-new race, as the distance was increased to two miles and five furlongs, a decision which seems to have neither rhyme nor reason behind it. As the Racing Post commented at the time this was, “in effect, a new race. Although run under the Lanzarote handle, this was in no way the same race as the Lanzarote of old”.

With only four runs at this new distance (the 2009 running was abandoned as the track was frozen, as today’s contest may well be) it’s a race to be cautious about if like me you base your betting around trends and statistics.

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