The Champion Stayers Hurdle (Punchestown, Thursday 5.30) is sponsored by Ladbrokes, and is run over 3-miles and 14 hurdles. It began life as the Tipperkevin Hurdle in 1995, and until recent years it had developed a reputation for delivering big-priced winners. However, the mighty mare Quevega stopped all that with 4 consecutive wins.
Willie Mullins has trained 5 of the last 10 winners, and is the only trainer with runners who has won the race before. Ruby Walsh is the top jockey with 5 wins. The last 10 winners have been aged between 6 and 9, with 7-year-olds winning 4, and the other three ages 2 each.
10 Runners are set to go to post for the 2016 renewal.
Alpha Des Obeaux 11/8
Deserves to be favourite on his second to Thistlecrack in the World Hurdle, and has been rested for this since. He’s also a course winner, with further seconds here behind Arctic Fire and Douvan over inadequate trips. Hard to beat, though the fact he’s won twice and been second 7 times is a bit worrying.
Won all three of the hurdle races he’s contested at Punchestown, though they were all at 20-furlongs and on soft/heavy ground. Also older than ideal at 10, and has not been near his best in 2 runs so far this season.
Diamond King 9/2
Trainer Gordon Elliott has improved him 26lb in just 4 runs, and he could still have plenty of improvement to come judging off his win in the Coral Cup. Yet to prove his stamina, but looked to be going best at the end of that aforementioned win over 21-furlongs.
If In Doubt 16/1
Generally runs well in 3-mile handicaps, but this could be a step too far for him.
Lieutenant Colonel 20/1
Fourth in last year’s renewal, and there’s nothing of the calibre of Jezki or Hurricane Fly this year, and the third won over fences here on Tuesday. However, he’s been poor this season, and this would require a personal best.
One Track Mind 12/1
Won 4 of his 8 starts at shorter distances, but has looked to be running-on in two attempts at this trip. Better ground is likely to suit, but will have to improve to take a hand.
Won a bumper at the 2014 Punchestown Festival, and was then third here last year to stablemate Killultagh Vic and Thistlecrack. That looks good form now, and was the same 7-lengths behind Thistlecrack at Aintree as Alpha Des Obeaux was a Cheltenham. Every chance, though stable form a worry, and performing to your best at three big festivals is hard to do.
Thousand Stars 28/1
The 12-y-o put-up an amazing performance to win in France in November, but was only seventh last year, and has never looked to truly stay the trip at this track.
Jennies Jewel 80/1
Won 4 runner race last time, and has run okay races behind Diamond King and Vroum Vroum Mag. However, she was brushed aside easily there. May outrun her odds, but hard to see her winning.
Legacy Gold 50/1
Another mare who’s got within 3 lengths of Vroum Vroum Mag this season, but mares form often flatters the placed horses, and this is a tough ask.
On the ratings, this should be won by either Alpha Des Obeaux, Shaneshill or Diamond King, with Shaneshill my least favourite of the three having had two hard races at Cheltenham and Aintree. Alpha Des Obeaux will be hard to beat but, as he comes second more times than he wins, an each-way on Diamond King is the recommendation.