The season’s championship race for staying hurdlers comes on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival. The Stayer’s Hurdle was first run at Cheltenham in 1912 and at the festival in its current form since 1972. For the majority of the race’s history it has been contest over 3 miles and is the definitive test of stamina over the smaller obstacles.
Two names in particular stand out amongst recent winners; Inglis Drever won the race three times between 2005 and 2008 for Howard Johnson, with Big Buck’s going one better achieving four consecutive victories between 2009 and 2012 for trainer Paul Nicholls and Jockey Ruby Walsh.
Next Race: Thursday, 18th March 2021
The next race is scheduled to run on 18th March 2021. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 12th March 2020
- Winner: Lisnagar Oscar
- SP: 50/1
- Trainer: Rebecca Curtis
- Jockey: Adam Wedge
Three miles is the trip for this Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race, set to be run on soft ground (heavy in places) this year and offering £325,000 in total prize money. The feature on day three is always an enjoyable race and this year we have an odds-on favourite who many will find very hard to oppose.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft (heavy in places)||3m||Grade 1||£325,000||12||1/5 1-3|
Stayers’ Hurdle Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Should Paisley Park triumph this Thursday, he will join a small list of horses featuring Big Buck’s, Inglis Drever and Baracouda who were able to win the Stayers’ Hurdle on consecutive occasions. The odds certainly suggest he can join them and the favourites do generally perform quite well in this contest, claiming six of the last 12 renewals.
That is a stat that is skewed somewhat, as are all recent trends in the race, by the four wins in a row claimed by the aforementioned Big Buck’s. None the less, lots of other short odds horses have delivered, with only three double-digit odds winners this millennium. There are not too many odds-on prices available at this year’s Festival but you cannot argue Paisley Park isn’t worthy of his price. A supremely talented long distance hurdler, he last tasted defeat two full years ago and will be the NAP of the entire meeting for many fans and pundits.
|Paisley Park||8/13||169||Emma Lavelle||Aidan Coleman|
|Summerville Boy||7/1||156||Tom George||Jonathan Burke|
|Emitom||10/1||153||Warren Greatrex||Gavin Sheehan|
|Penhill||12/1||156||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|Apple's Jade||14/1||157||Gordon Elliott||Richard Johnson|
PAISLEY PARK (8/13)
A sensational 2018/19 season saw Emma Lavelle’s gelding secure five wins on the bounce including the Long Walk Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle. A superb showing in the Stayers’ Hurdle rounded off a flawless season and he’s lost absolutely none of his ability over the course of the current campaign.
He halted a strong Thistlecrack in November and again looked comfortable on his way to a second Cleeve Hurdle win with Summerville Boy in second. Ground versatile and able to win both well and slowly run races, it’s very hard to see the eight-year-old losing this contest no matter how it plays out.
SUMMERVILLE BOY (7/1)
As we’ve just given Summerville Boy a mention, let’s make him our next point of focus. As mentioned above, the Tom George hurdler finished runner-up to Paisley Park during what was his first effort in the Cleeve Hurdle. No doubt George will have been pleased to see him put in such a solid shift but it does raise the question of whether he can really offer much in the way of improvement. Bar a minor mistake around the final hurdle, you could hardly fault the eight-year-old who had the benefit of dictating the pace out in front but how can he improve on that?.
While things went as well as they could on the day, it’s worth remembering that it was Summerville Boy’s debut at three miles. This trip marked a significant step up as it was nearly four furlongs further than he had ever gone previously. As such, we could see some improvements here as he acclimatises to the new distance. To see a little extra from him would not be a surprise therefore but it’s unlikely to be enough to put an end to Paisley Park’s winning streak.
The sole six-year-old entry among this year’s field is Emitom but there is no need to be put off by his age. We have had a reasonable share of youth prevailing over their older rivals in this race, represented by three six-year-old winners since 2009.
Runner-up of the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, he began this season in hugely disappointing fashion, finishing dead last during a New Year’s Day effort at this very course. Winding up 19 lengths short of Summerville Boy that afternoon, he was able to make amends last month on the way to a convincing Rendlesham Hurdle title.
You do have to look to the opposition faced during this recent win though as it stops you from taking too much from it. Joint favourite The Worlds End suffered an issue which forced him to stop quickly while all remaining rivals had an official rating of 150 or lower. Facing distinctly tougher opponents this time, the extra pace of the race could catch him out as it did on his seasonal debut.
As winner of this event two years ago, Penhill is not a name you want to quickly dismiss. The nine-year-old is not the horse he used to be, down nine pounds in the official ratings from his career high, but he did show signs of stopping the rot last time out.
Prior to this, at Fairyhouse, Leopardstown and Gowran Park, the Willie Mullins runner wound up at least 20 lengths behind the eventual winner. Losing to the likes of Benie Des Dieux and Apple’s Jade is nothing to be ashamed of but to see him not remotely within touching distance was a concern.
A drop down in trip last month however helped Penhill look a little more like his old self. Competing in the Boyne Hurdle, he ended up within four lengths of the winner after finishing well, despite never really threatening. This run came on heavy going too so all the recent rainfall at Cheltenham may well aid his cause and connections will be hoping it doesn’t dry out too much. We’re not backing him to pull off an upset here but as a place only bet we can think of many worse selections considering what he’s shown in the past.
APPLE’S JADE (14/1)
If you happened to see Apple’s Jade in action during the Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle then we can fully understand why you might be weighing up the mare for this contest. On that day at Leopardstown, she looked in fantastic shape, even if you could pick fault with her jumping at times. Leading from start to finish, she had far too much athleticism for the rest of the decent quality field that featured the likes of Unowhatimeanharry, Penhill and Bacardys.
This triumphant return to three miles immediately made her a real Stayers’ Hurdle contender but much of that early hope has faded now. At Gowran Park, Davy Russel was forced to pull her up as she was never really travelling at any point. What caused the issue exactly is not known, or at least hasn’t been revealed, but Gordon Elliott admitted she looked a bit lifeless afterwards. Adding that she’s simply not working as well as she once was, we may perhaps witness a mare firmly in her decline this Thursday and the odds don’t look sufficient to really tempt us in.
Stayers’ Hurdle Winners
|2020||Lisnagar Oscar||50/1||Rebecca Curtis||Adam Wedge|
|2019||Paisley Park||11/8||Emma Lavelle||Aidan Coleman|
|2018||Penhill||12/1||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2017||Nichols Canyon||10/1||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2016||Thistlecrack||Evs||Colin Tizzard||Tom Scudamore|
|2015||Cole Harden||14/1||Warren Greatrex||Gavin Sheehan|
|2014||More Of That||15/2||Jonjo O’Neill||Barry Geraghty|
|2013||Solwhit||17/2||Charles Byrnes||Paul Carberry|
|2012||Big Buck's||5/6||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2011||Big Buck's||10/11||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
About the Stayers’ Hurdle: Day Three’s Headline Act
Each day at the Cheltenham Festival has its championship level contest towards which the whole season builds for those runners in the relevant category. Speed is the name of the game on Day One and Day Two respectively, but in the second half of the meeting the focus turns towards stamina, beginning with the Day Three showpiece of the Stayers’ Hurdle. A Grade 1 contest for runners aged four and older, the crème de la crème of the staying division tackle three miles and 12 obstacles in pursuit of glory.
First run way back in 1912, the race is now firmly into its second century of existence, making it one of the more historic events of the meeting. The shape and name of the race has however gone through a number of changes over the years, with the first recognised edition of the modern era taking place more recently in 1972. Having been replaced by an event known as the Spa Hurdle from 1946, 1972 was the year the race returned to the Festival schedule under its current moniker; a title which it has retained ever since, other than between 2005 and 2016 when it was known as the World Hurdle.
With that inaugural edition in 1912 actually being a selling contest – the winner was up for grabs for a bargain £50 at the time – the class of the contest has certainly increased, to the extent that it is now the pre-eminent Grade 1 staying hurdle of the entire British season.
Trials, Trials and More Trials
Those punters looking to plot an ante-post course towards finding the winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle are certainly well catered for when it comes to trials for the big one. Almost from the advent of the National Hunt season, the British and Irish Fixture list provides a steady stream of Graded staying hurdle contests which provide logical stepping stones towards the main event in March.
Other Major UK & Irish Staying Hurdles
|October||West Yorkshire Hurdle||Wetherby||2|
|November||Long Distance Hurdle||Newbury||2|
|December||Long Walk Hurdle||Ascot||1|
|January||Galmoy Hurdle||Gowran Park||2|
Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle in late November/early December gives us our first real pointers towards the season’s pecking order in the staying division and has been taken in by the likes of Baracouda, Inglis Drever, Big Buck’s and Thistlecrack on route to Stayers’ Hurdle success.
Next up comes Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle in December which again has thrown up its share of winners, including Baracouda, Big Buck’s, Thistlecrack again and Paisley Park in addition to 2006 Stayers king, My Way De Solzen.
Those who place extra emphasis upon form at the track won’t want to miss January’s Cleeve Hurdle which takes place at Cheltenham. This race has grown in prominence over time and has been used as a final stepping stone towards the big one by Inglis Drever, Big Buck’s, Thistlecrack and Paisley Park.
Those looking to assess the merits of the Irish challengers meanwhile would do well to tune into the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. As of 2020 the race has yet to throw up the winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle, but those to have competed in the race do regularly fare the best of the Irish runners who turn up at Cheltenham. Having been won by the likes of Limestone Lad, Vroum Vroum Mag and Apple’s Jade, it may only be a matter of time until the winner of Ireland’s big festive hurdle follows up at Prestbury Park.
Buck’s Best of Multiple Winners
This race has been no stranger to a horse returning to the scene of his former glory to land the prize on more than one occasion. This multiple winner trend started very early too, with Silver Bay winning the two first editions. Crimson Embers, Galmoy, Sobrino, and Warwick are others to have doubled up in the earlier editions of the race, but the two greatest performers in the history of the contest were to come in more recent times.
Howard Johnson’s Inglis Drever burst onto the scene in 2005 when upsetting hot favourite – and another dual winner of the race – Baracouda to score impressively by three lengths. Inglis Drever missed the 2006 edition but returned in 2007 to record a hard-fought success from Mighty Man. A place in the record books therefore beckoned headed into the 2008 edition. The now nine year old duly delivered to see off French challenger Kasbah Bliss and become the first ever three time winner of the race. His record however wouldn’t last long….
The Paul Nicholl’s trained Big Buck’s had announced himself as the potential new kid on the block on the staying hurdle scene when coming home well clear in the 2009 Cleeve Hurdle and backed that trial performance up with a win from Punchestown’s in the big one. Noble challengers such as Grand Crus and Voler La Vedette came and went in the following seasons, but none could lay a glove on Big Buck’s who dominated the staying scene to an unprecedented degree, racking up a second, third and fourth win in this race in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Undoubtedly one of the greatest staying hurdlers of all time.
Big Buck’s didn’t just propel himself into the record books, the horse also took his trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh with him. Those four wins for Nicholls make him the most successful handler in the history of the race, whilst Walsh, who added a fifth victory aboard Nichols Canyon in 2017, leads the way amongst the riders.
Younger Runners to the Fore
Common wisdom dictates that the staying power of a horse tends to improve with age. Whilst that is true to an extent in this race – no runner younger than six has come home in front since 1951 – the overall pattern suggests that we certainly don’t want a runner too old when looking for the winner here. The below chart gives the age breakdown of all winners between 1972 and 2020 and suggests that focusing on runners between the ages of six and eight is the way to go.