As far as National Hunt racing is concerned, the ‘Timeform era’ began with the publication of the first Timeform Black Book in that sphere in 1962. Consequently, the Timeform era excludes such post-war luminaries as National Spirit, Hatton’s Grace and Sir Ken who, collectively, won the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival eight years running between 1947 and 1954.
However, Timeform Annual Ratings provide as reliable a measure as any of the relative merits of hurdlers from the late twentieth century onwards. Leading the way, according to the respected ratings organisation, is Night Nurse, trained by Peter Easterby, who won the Champion Hurdle in 1976 and 1977 – on the latter occasion beating what the Racing Post described as the ‘strongest of fields ever assembled’ – and was awarded a Timeform Annual Rating of 182.
Indeed, it is difficult to argue with the assertion of the Racing Post because second in the 1977 renewal of the Champion Hurdle was Monksfield, trained by Des McDonogh, who would win the prestigious hurdling event in 1978 and 1979; in so doing, Monksfield would earn a Timeform Annual Rating of 180, which places him joint-second on the all-time Timeform list. Sharing second position is the triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq, trained by Aidan O’Brien, who lifted the hurdling crown, on both sides of the Irish Sea, in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and was robbed of the opportunity to do so again in 2001, when the Cheltenham Festival was abandoned, in its entirety, due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.