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Cheltenham: Night Nurse was hard act to follow

The reigning title holder Punjabi was given a Timeform rating of 164 last season, a level of ability that is of course far, far better than your average hurdler.

But compared with Champion Hurdle winners, it puts him below the mean, into the inferior bracket.

The late 60s, 70s early 80s were rightly dubbed hurdling's golden era.

The greatest of all was bold-jumping front-runner Night Nurse, trained by Peter Easterby.

He set up a sequence of 10 wins in a row in 1975 and 1976, which included his first Champion Hurdle.

To win his second Cheltenham title he made most to beat Monksfield two lengths (followed in by Dramatist, Sea Pigeon and Birds Nest) and then capped that display by dead-heating with Monksfield, giving him 6lb, at Aintree, after an epic duel.

The best

1. Night Nurse (1976-77) rated 182

2. Istabraq (1988-2000) rated 180

3. Persian War ((1968-70) rated 180

4. Monksfield (1978-79) rated 180

5. Comedy of Errors (1973,1975) rated 178

The worst

Seneca (1941) rated 145. He won a six-horse wartime running by a head on only his second outing over hurdles, broke down shortly afterwards and, although patched up to race a few times after the war, never won again.

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