Cheltenham 2019: Stayers Hurdle Odds and Betting Preview

cheltenhamHighlights of Day 3 of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival include the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase, but our focus is on the Stayers Hurdle – also of Grade 1 status, and it is the most prestigious distance race in the National Hunt calendar for hurdlers.

Due off at 15:30 GMT on Thursday afternoon, this race has so many narratives; potential new stars on the horizon, or an existing star on the comeback trail to rekindle past glories. You can be sure that this race in particular will throw up one of the stories of the Festival.

Event Date: 14 March, 2019

History and Previous Winners

First contested back in 1912, over its current distance of three miles (4,828 meters), this race was named the “Stayers Selling Hurdle” and was a Weight for Age Selling type of event with the winning horse being sold for £50 after the race. The race suffered the ignominy of being removed from the Festival calendar from 1928-29 and due to World War II from 1939-45.

From 1946, the race returned as The Spa Hurdle, until 1972, when it was renamed as its current title. In a bid to revamp the race from 2005, Ladbrokes took over sponsorship and renamed the race as the ‘World Hurdle’. After ten years, the backing of Ladbrokes ended and has now reverted to the original name.

Previous winners of this prestigious staying event include three-time winner, Inglis Drever (2005, 2007-08) and staying hurdle legend, Big Buck’s who won the event four times in succession from 2009-12.

Penhill stormed to victory in last year’s renewal, but injury has curtailed his hopes of a second win this year. So, who will come out on top this time around? Read on for our thoughts in this highly competitive affair.

Banker or Bust

Faugheen

Faugheen

Following a hugely impressive season, Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park has been installed by many column inches and online tipsters as one of the Cheltenham Festival bankers of the week. It is difficult to argue otherwise in truth. After a quartet of successive victories this season, the seven-year-old son of Oscar is just 13/8 with the likes of Ladbrokes and Coral to enhance his growing reputation at the highest level.

After two lesser graded victories at Aintree and Haydock, Paisley Park won the Grade 1 JLT Hurdle at Ascot in December and cemented his status as Britain’s leading stayer by claiming the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in decisive fashion in late January. This race is the acid test however, but his form so far this season is far and away the best on offer that has been seen.

One Last Hurrah?

The career of Faugheen has been a rollercoaster ride of extreme proportions. Previous winner of the Neptune Novices Hurdle as a novice, Faugheen returned the season after to claim the Champion Hurdle in decisive fashion. Sadly, injuries and inconsistent form has robbed the National Hunt watching public of a potential all-time-great of the sport, but now 11-years-old, trainer Willie Mullins is bringing back his star horse for one last hurrah.

William Hill offer best price of 9/2 on Faugheen dispelling all the doubts and prove his worth once again. After two runs this season, finished second behind Sharjah at Punchestown and fell two out against Apple’s Jade over Christmas at Leopardstown, it is quite difficult to offer solid form lines on how Faugheen can turn around his form. Ruby Walsh will likely take the ride on Faugheen, who has won just once since December 2017 from five outings.

Place Claims

Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae is one of, if not the most consistent animals in training, and provided he is given the opportunity to contest the Stayers Hurdle on Thursday afternoon, the nine-year-old will have definitive claims on making the first three.

It is over two years and twelve races since Supasundae finished out of the first three in any race, in a superb run of form. A previous winner of the Coral Cup at Cheltenham back in 2017 and a two-length second behind Penhill in last years’ Stayers Hurdle, Supasundae has excellent Festival form to call upon and has place claims at least this year. William Hill go the standout price once again of 8/1 on the Irish raider.

Others to Consider

willie mullins

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins is likely to be double-handed in this race with Bacardys on the comeback mission following a disastrous run over fences in the last two seasons. Bacardys showed excellent hurdles form as a novice, with the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown back in 2017 as a highlight.

At the top price of 14/1 with SportPesa, you are getting value on the likely Mullins second-string, but Bacardys has to show he retains his ability after confidence has obviously taken a knock during an unsuccessful chasing career.

Another pair of contenders who are reverting back to hurdles in this race are Kilbricken Storm for trainer, Colin Tizzard and Tom George’s Black Op, who both have the potential to make their presence felt in the race.

Kilbricken Storm has seen significant support for this race in the ante-post market in recent days as last years’ Albert Bartlett winner is likely to opt for a tilt at the Stayers Hurdle. Ground conditions are likely to be very similar this time around, for the now eight-year-old who had the likes of Ok Corral and Santini trailing in his wake. At 14/1 with Ladbrokes and William Hill, if Kilbricken Storm is in the same vein of form as last year, he will be a big player.

Black Op finished second behind the highly-touted Samcro in last years’ Ballymore Novices Hurdle, and a career over fences was expected for the talented eight-year-old. As with several others in this field, chasing has not been a successful transition, and Black Op is back over the smaller obstacles once again. Ladbrokes and SportingBet are the best option for a bet on Black Op at 14/1 currently.

Conclusion

This race evolves around the performance of Paisley Park in my view. If he performs to the same level of his previous wins at Ascot and Cheltenham, then it will take a mighty effort to lower his colours. This horse has showed by far the best form so far this season of any staying hurdler, and deserves to be favourite, and will win, I believe.

Faugheen could well leave me with the metaphorical ‘egg on my face’ and return to his best form and win the race, but at eleven years of age, I feel his best years are long gone and he will be following the Festival, sadly.

Supasundae and Kilbricken Storm are the horses to consider for place money. As already stated in this preview, Supasundae is a model of consistency, and has to be involved at the finish, while Kilbricken Storm has the previous course and distance and Festival form to make his presence felt. Purely based on the larger odds, a punt is taken on the Colin Tizzard horse to make the frame in what is an utterly intriguing race to savour.

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