Cheltenham Festival: Fury Road leads Irish charge in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

PPTV presenter James Shortt has had a gander at the Irish raiders in the Thursday March 18 race at Prestbury Park.

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Trapper John, Shuil Ar Aghaidh, Dorans Pride, Solwhit, Nichols Canyon and Penhill are the six Irish trained horses to win the Stayers’ Hurdle since 1990. The feature race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival is not one of the strongest for the Irish over the past 40-years, but we have a solid team bidding for glory this year.

Sire Du Berlais is one of several possibilities for Gordon Elliott, with the nine-year-old looking for a third victory at the Festival having won the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle in the past two years. The JP McManus-owned runner has no issues with the trip, but ground conditions will play a factor with all four career victories coming with soft ground in the going description.

His preparation for a crack at a bigger Cheltenham prize started in good fashion with success in the Lismullen Hurdle in November.

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The Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown is another key race to review with Sire Du Berlais finishing third to the improving Flooring Porter, with The Storyteller staying on best for second and FURY ROAD and French Dynamite back in fourth and fifth-places.

Gavin Cromwell’s winner has a made a dramatic leap forward into Grade 1 company this season following handicap runs at Gowran Park, Galway and Navan. The son of Yeats was finding plenty and going away at the finish in Foxrock and has no going concerns, having previously won on both good and soft ground.

Kemboy adds some spice to the Stayers’ Hurdle picture with the strong possibility of running here following his latest victory in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival. Willie Mullins was quick to suggest this race for a horse who has previously disappointed in the Gold Cup, so dropping to hurdles looks extremely intriguing and perhaps another classic manoeuvre from the champion trainer.

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Beacon Edge showed his battling qualities by winning the Boyne Hurdle at Navan with Fury Road a neck behind in second spot. I wouldn’t discount the chances of the Elliott runner just yet having won several Graded races over hurdles as a novice.

He was only beaten a neck when finishing third behind Monkfish in a cracking finish to the 2020 Albert Barlett. The Gigginstown runner can handle different ground conditions and has very few miles on the clock throughout his career. His fourth-placed finish at Leopardstown over Christmas was only his second start of the campaign having won the Celebration Hurdle at Punchestown in November.

Sams Profile returned to hurdles in good fashion with victory over Diol Ker in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in late January. Elsewhere, the versatile Bachasson remains entered, but perhaps an unlikely runner despite finding a new lease of life with four straight victories since March of last year. The Willie Mullins team has options with Great White Shark and Bacardys, while City Island is another massive-priced Irish entry for Martin Brassil.

In summary, the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle is by far the most open of the four championship races at Cheltenham 2020. The home challenge is strong with former champion Paisley Park and Thyme Hill for Philip Hobbs the leading contenders. There’s a handful of solid each-way horses in the picture for the Irish with FURY ROAD getting the each-way verdict for me at present. The extra few furlongs from the Boyne Hurdle run, along with a strongly run race at Cheltenham will see him among the late challengers.

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