Stayers Hurdle Analysis
Cheltenham Racecourse on 18th March
In our quest to find the winner of the 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle, there’s no better starting place than last year’s winner. The bookies have installed him in the ante-post market at a best-priced 16/1 to become the fourth horse to win back-to-back Stayer’s Hurdles this century after Baracouda, Inglis Drever, and Big Bucks. However, he doesn’t have the dominant profile of those former champions, with that win being his first in eight runs.
2019 Champion Paisley Park was odds-on to become a dual champion last year but fluffed his lines after having previously easily beaten Lisnagar Oscar in the Cleeve Hurdle. He could make a bold bid to regain his crown but, as nine different horses have won the last nine renewals, it could pay to look elsewhere.
Stayers’ Hurdle winners aren’t always the easiest to find in the ante-post markets, with Big Bucks being well-beaten in a handicap chase at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival before embarking on a run of four consecutive wins in the race. Meanwhile, More Of That won the race in his first season over hurdles.
Thistlecrack was easier to find, as he won a Grade 1 over 3-miles at Aintree’s Grand National Meeting the previous season, but that race can’t give us any pointers this season as it wasn’t run.
Two of the last eight winners of the Stayers’ Hurdle, Nichols Canyon and Solwhit, had run in the previous season’s Champion Hurdle, but it’s hard to find an obvious candidate from this time around. Pentland Hills could be worth a try at a longer trip, and the 2019 Triumph Hurdle winner is still young enough to make an impact on a bigger stage, but he’s not quoted in the ante-post market.
The 2015 winner Cole Harden finished seventh at 40/1 in the previous season’s Ballymore Hurdle. The 2020 Ballymore looked a classy renewal and the first four home Envoi Allen, Easywork, The Big Getaway, and The Big Breakaway could all be potential challengers for the Stayers’ Hurdle, but chasing could also be on all their agendas next season.
The same comment applies to the horse that finished fifth in that race, Mossy Fen, as he’s only a 5-year-old. He’s also not quoted in the early markets, but he could be worth keeping an eye on if his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies decides to keep him over hurdles.
The two most interesting statistics about recent editions of the Stayer’s Hurdle are the last five winners have all been aged seven, while the last three winners had all run in the previous season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Penhill won the Albert Bartlett in 2017, but Paisley Park and Lisnagar Oscar both finished unplaced.
The first four horses in the 2020 Albert Bartlett all looked a useful bunch, and it will be interesting to see whether connections keep them over hurdles or send them chasing. Monkfish looks more of a chasing type, as does the third Fury Road.
The runner-up Latest Exhibition was unlucky to lose a shoe, and he could also go over fences. He’ll be an 8-year-old next season but is, interestingly, by the sire of both Lisnagar Oscar and Paisley Park.
That means the most interesting horse from the 2020 Albert Barlett could be Thyme Hill, who finished fourth after being squeezed for room at a crucial stage. He’ll be seven next season and is sired by Kayf Tara who also sired Thistlecrack. More importantly, his trainer Philip Hobbs has suggested Thyme Hill is more of a hurdler than a chaser and is likely to stay over hurdles.
If there’s a horse in the Stayers’ Hurdle market that could be smashed up next season it has to be Benie Des Dieux, who could be a superstar at the trip. However, connections tend to keep their mares in mares-only races at the Cheltenham Festival.