Kribensis, the Newmarket Champion Hurdler

12th March 2018

Sir Michael Stoute, Sheikh Mohammed and the son of a Derby winner teaming up for a victory at the highest level in 1990 – nothing too unusual about that was there?


Well there was on a day when the victory in question took place not at one of the world’s premier Flat tracks but instead at the crucible of jump racing, in the Group 1 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Kribensis, a son of the 1980 Derby winner Henbit, was no more bred for jumps success than his connections yet somehow he triumphed to give Newmarket, the home of Flat racing, an unlikely success. What is more, he proved something of a trailblazer for Sheikh Mohammed who also owned Royal Gait who took the same race two years later.

Kribensis began his career in a style rather more in keeping with his connections’ usual aspirations, breaking his maiden over a mile at Ayr in September as a two-year-old. At three he stepped up in trip for victories over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half at Salisbury and Sandown respectively in May 1987. Sent to Royal Ascot, he finished third in the King George V Stakes and was fifth in a handicap on the same course.

However, the next time the grey would appear in the winner’s enclosure was over hurdles at Doncaster when he made a winning appearance in the Brewer Hurdle for four-year-olds. The margin of victory was only a neck but he was on his way to better.

Next up was a defeat of the subsequent high-class chaser Young Snugfit at Huntingdon and then he cruised to a memorable victory in the Triumph Hurdle, defeating a massive field of 25 rivals for an unlikely Cheltenham success.

Just over a month after tasting Festival glory, Kribensis lined up for the Group 3 Gordon Richard Stakes at Sandown. Without hurdles to pique his interest, he finished last of five, and was put away for the season to await further glory in the winter game.

Kribensis at four and five was a force to be reckoned with, clocking up victories in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury and the Christmas Hurdle. Unsurprisingly he was sent off favourite for the Champion Hurdle but could manage only seventh behind Beech Road.

A return to the flat yielded a pair of four-place finishes before Kribensis went for a summer break. He resumed winning ways back over sticks on his seasonal jumping debut, landing the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

That victory proved to be the first leg of famous hurdling treble, with Kribensis following up in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Those two victories, and a successful trip to Wincanton for the Kingwell Hurdle, set him up beautifully for the crowning glory, success in the Champion Hurdle.

Facing eight rivals on good to firm ground, Kribensis travelled well throughout before taking the lead at the last. Under regular partner Richard Dunwoody, he was driven out to defeat Nomadic Way by three lengths, with past winners Beech Road and See You Then and subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Morley Street among those in arrears.

It would be Kribensis’s last victory under either code. Broken blood vessels and a reported bone chip led to a year on the sidelines and he returned to the races at Haydock in February 1992, finishing second in the Diamond Hurdle.

He ran twice more in Champion Hurdles, finishing 14th of 16 to Royal Gait in 1992, having badly gashed a leg at the third, and eleventh of 18 to Granville Again a year later.

In retirement he remained a Newmarket regular, serving as hack for his trainer at Freemason Lodge, and he lived out his days at the yard before putting down in 2007 at the age of 22.

Amy Bennett, guest blogger