With Cheltenham fast approaching once again horse racing fans will be gearing up for four days of exciting action at Prestbury Park.
While the showpiece races such as the Gold Cup and Champion Chase are usually the talk of the town, it’s important not to overlook some of the other Grade One races. In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of the Ryanair Chase, while the classic Stayers’ Hurdle is looking particularly exciting this time around, especially where betting on Cheltenham is concerned.
Taking place on day three of the Festival, alongside the aforementioned Ryanair Chase, this two-mile, seven-furlong race is bursting with quality, and given the unpredictability of a race day at Cheltenham, and the fact that spectators are back in attendance, the title is certainly up for grabs.
Last year saw Danny Mullins aboard Flooring Porter, and while the nephew of the famous Willie Mullins will garner most attention with Tornado Flyer after their great run at the King George VI Chase back on Boxing Day, it will be interesting to see if anyone can dislodge the current champion. There’ll be plenty of suitors in a competitive race chock full of future history makers and previous Grade One winners. Let’s take a look at some of the horses in contention for this year’s Stayers’ Hurdle.
The role of a jockey can never go truly unappreciated in horse racing, and Tom O’Brien will want to push the likes of Rachael Blackmore all the way for the Top Jockey award. O’Brien will be aboard Thyme Hill in the Stayer’s Hurdle, and despite coming up short to the Nick Henderson-trained Champ in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, the jockey still believes the eight-year-old has a good chance.
“He is doing well and all is going nicely and I’m really looking forward to getting going with him in the spring,” said O’Brien.
“Looking at the way the race is shaping up after the Trials day, I’m more confident. There is nothing dominant.
It’s definitely been an interesting 12 months for Mullins-trained Klassical Dream. On the back of a 487-day hiatus, the eight-year-old, who boasts an admittedly strong record at Cheltenham including a Novices Hurdle win, returned to Punchestown with something of a shock victory, and after winning the Christmas Hurdle following a controversial start to deny Flooring Porter and Gavin Cromwell, many thought he’d be favourite for the Stayers’.
However, an unfortunate error in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran in which he fell towards the end of the race has meant his odds have slipped back down the pecking order. Will Klassical Dream make more Cheltenham history for Mullins, or fluff his lines once again?
Despite coming up short in the Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle to Paisley Park, you only need to look at the classy performance of Champ back in December’s Howden Long Walk Hurdle to know he has every chance of winning this year’s Stayers’ Hurdle.
It was a great performance to end the year on, running powerfully and easily dispatching the competition. Another part of Henderson’s impressive stable, Champ has shown he can mix it with the big boys before, beating Minella Indo and Allaho in the 2020 RSA Chase, but with Henderson deciding to run him in the Stayers’ rather than the Gold Cup, it clearly shows the faith the trainer has in the experienced ten-year-old.