* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
The Stayers Hurdle not only has some of the greatest sponsors of the week, but it also throws up some fascinating clashes – despite Thyme Hill not making it to Cheltenham. Former staying king Paisley Park is attempting to regain his crown, but the peak of his powers are arguably well behind him now and they are queuing up to take the throne. We’ll find out who takes the honours when they go to post at 15.05.
The 2019 Cheltenham Staying champ is back and here to regain his crown. Paisley Park was incredibly disappointing in this race last year, finishing a well-beaten seventh after going off as the red-hot 4/6 favourite. Trainer Emma Lavelle channeled her inner-Jurgen Klopp when looking for an excuse and blamed the fact that Paisley Park lost a couple of shoes on the way round – before it was revealed he had a fibrillating heart.
After a nice summer break, he returned to finish second in the Long Distance Hurdle behind Thyme Hill and reversed that form in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas.
He’s the best horse on paper and does his best at the end of a race – but he isn’t as dominant as he has been, and it could be that Paisley Park is past his best.
Sire Du Berlais is a dual Festival winner with two wins in the Pertemps Final, but now he switches his attention to this Championship affair. Everything looked great in November at Navan when he won the Lismullen Hurdle in a bit of bog but then he disappointed in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and that has the red flags flying.
He laboured around the course akin to most of us attempting the Couch to 5K in lockdown, making Flooring Porter look like Mo Farah.
Gavin Cromwell’s mount had the beating of Sire Du Berlais when he led from start to finish in that Christmas Hurdle, and that came hot on the heels of a dominant performance in Navan. In his two runs this season he has set the pace and put it up to everyone else to catch him. It’s a confident, swashbuckling style that Daniel Craig would be proud of.
He’s never been to Cheltenham, so let’s see if that tactic works up the hill.
Fury Road was behind both Flooring Porter and Sire Du Berlais in that race, but this is the same fella that was only a neck behind Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year, so he has bundles of talent in there somewhere.
He was a beaten favourite again in Navan in February – a worrying habit to be picking up – but he jumped well and travelled strongly without getting his head in front, no doubt leaving punters somewhat furious. What is it Alanis Morrissette says?
- CHECK OUT OUR BRAND NEW SNAZZY RACECARDS FOR EVERY SINGLE RACE TODAY
- … THEN GET ALL THE WINNERS BEFORE ANYONE ELSE WITH OUR FAST RESULTS
Talking of beaten favourites, Vinndication has been top of the market on each of his last three runs and been beaten in them all – most recently ditching top jock David Bass on to the turf at Newbury. Coming into the Festival after unseating your rider and getting turned over as a favourite feels like turning up for a huge job interview after missing the Luas and then realising you have no trousers on. It’s not exactly ideal preparation.
Oscar will be the Hollywood star in many Cheltenham betting stories after winning the Stayers Hurdle last year at 50/1. If any one of your friends backed him that day, no doubt you have heard all about it ever since. Bungalow Tipsters I call them – they only ever have one story.
He hasn’t won since and was 20 lengths behind Paisley Park at Newbury.
Looking through The Storyteller’s form is enough to make even the strongest stayer start to feel tired. He ran six times between the end of July and end of October and then after a mini break ran twice at Leopardstown on his way to Cheltenham.
While my hamstrings feel tight just thinking about it, The Storyteller clearly doesn’t mind as in his last seven races he has never been outside of the top two. He went down by six lengths to Flooring Porter in the Christmas Hurdle but then put in a hell of a run to finish second in the Irish Gold Cup over fences.
He is as gutsy as they come.
If The Cap Fits has spent his season popping over fences and now returns to the smaller obstacles on his Festival debut. He has run at Cheltenham before – finishing a distant fifth behind Paisley Park in the 2020 Cleeve Hurdle – and since then has impressed with how he’s taken to his fences.
Don’t let his new discipline take away from the fact he’s a Grade one winning hurdler though and his win in the 2019 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree was mightily impressive.
Beacon Edge was the horse who lowered the colours of Fury Road in that Navan contest in February and now he steps up to three miles for the first time. Wiser men than me suggest the extra distance shouldn’t be a problem, but as a man who once moved to a new house to be three roads closer to McDonalds, I’m happy to be an observer rather than a backer when it comes to people (or horses) trying to run further than they’re used to.
One of the main facts here is that this horse was 53 lengths behind Paisley Park in December and will need to come up with something extraordinary to turn the tables here. He had won nine races on the spin up until that point and was showing rapid improvement before Paisley Park put him back in his place. Main Fact struggled again last time out finishing a well beaten fourth of five in a Haydock Grade two.
Sam Spinner looked for a split second like he might win this race in 2019 before being worn down in the last 100 yards by Paisley Park. He still rewarded punters who backed him at 33/1 with some nice each-way money and that winning buzz continued into the tail end of 2019 as he won three races on the spin at short prices.
But the honeymoon period is over. And it’s not just turned into the odd row about who empties the dishwasher or who gets to pick the Netflix film. This is full on divorce. He took almost a year off and returned in the Charlie Hall Chase only to get pulled up before the seventh fence. A month later he was back hurdling and in the Long Distance Hurdle and was dead-last – 50 lengths behind Paisley Park.
Bacardys has only won once in the last four years and despite being part of Willie Mullins’ stable of stars a win here would be as likely as another four years of Donald Trump. He was well beaten in this race in 2019, and although staying on to place third last year this is a stronger renewal.
This season he was beaten comfortably into fourth in the Hatton’s Grace and pulled up when struggling in Flooring Porter’s Christmas Hurdle. He tried his best in heavy ground at Gowran in the Galmoy Hurdle but suffered another moral-demolishing hammering, finishing 23 lengths behind the winner.
Four years ago, Lil Rockerfeller was less than a length behind Nichols Canyon in this race – and unfortunately for fans that is probably the closest he will come. Despite the option of picking up his pipe and slippers, collecting his pension, voting for Brexit, and whatever else old fellas do in the UK, Lil Rockerfeller is still going although it’s almost two-and-a-half years since he last won a race.
Reserve Tank was pulled up in the Marsh Novices’ Chase in the Festival last year and that was his only trip to Prestbury Park. After a full year off the track, he returned late last month and although staying on, was easily beaten. He could come on for that run and is a previous two-time Grade one winner, but he’d need a tank-full of luck to do so.
Younevercall was held by Paisley Park in Ascot but was putting in a decent run until butchering his jumps at both the second-last and the final hurdle. He was pulled up in early January at Kempton, which is understandable given that he’d put everything into that run three weeks earlier.
Since then, he’s had a wind operation so could he be worth the cheekiest of 50p each-way bets? Possibly…
READ MORE ON CHELTENHAM 2021
- Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey’s Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle antepost bets
- Cheltenham tips: Ruby Walsh and Frank Hickey’s County Hurdle antepost picks