Cheltenham Festival ante post tips: Flooring Porter on target to defend Stayers’ Hurdle crown

Flooring Porter rates a solid ante-post betting proposition for the 2022 Stayers' Hurdle.Flooring Porter rates a solid ante-post betting proposition for the 2022 Stayers' Hurdle.

2022 Stayers Hurdle Ante-Post Preview

With some leading bookmakers now offering “non-runner – no bet” on the feature races at the Cheltenham Festival 2022, we are taking an early look for some value bets. The five featured races are the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and Stayers Hurdle. Bookmakers making this concession inevitably trim the odds but there could still be some terrific each-way value with the added bonus of having your stake returned if the selection does not run. Here is our early preview of the ante-post Cheltenham betting on the Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday 17th March.

Klassical Dream clear favourite after Christmas Hurdle win

Klassical Dream jumped his way to the head of the Stayers’ Hurdle betting when making all the running to win the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on 28th December. The race was not without controversy as the horse anticipated the start and pinched a useful 5 lengths lead under Paul Townend. It is hard to say how significant this was in a three-mile hurdle but it is perhaps more relevant because he got first run on habitual front-runner Flooring Porter, his main market rival and closest pursuer.

Townend played down the incident but deserves credit for seizing the opportunity and never surrendering the advantage. Klassical Dream kept up the gallop and held off the persistent challenge of Flooring Porter to win by 2 lengths. There was a yawning 21 lengths gap to Burning Victory in third place with the likes of Abacadabras and Ronald Pump well beaten.

Klassical Dream won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles in 2019 and duly followed up at the Punchestown Festival that season. However, he has only made four racecourse appearances since. Having missed the 2020 Champion Hurdle, he was off the course for 487 days before bouncing back with a victory over three miles at Punchestown last April. The son of Dream Well then spent another 243 days on the side-lines before his impressive Leopardstown victory. If Willie Mullins can nurse him to the Cheltenham Festival, he looks the one to beat. In the circumstances, the 5-2 (with a run) offered by Betfred makes more appeal than the 11-4 generally on offer.

Gavin Cromwell was initially disappointed to see Flooring Porter beaten but, on reflection, acknowledged that is was a solid performance and he is on course for Cheltenham. He has won from off the pace but his best victories have been achieved from the front. In last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle, he had the rest of the field under pressure a long way from home and readily held Sire Du Berlais and Paisley Park. There is no reason to think he won’t be at least as good as 12 months’ ago and it sets up a fascinating rematch with Klassical Dream.

Champ and Thyme Hill lead British challenge

If the Christmas Hurdle was the standout trial in Ireland, then the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot has to be the best staying hurdle run in Great Britain this season. The favourite was Thyme Hill, forced to miss Cheltenham last year but successful in the Liverpool Hurdle. He had previously been beaten a neck by Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle and was destined to fill the runner-up spot once again in 2021.

Tom O’Brien held Thyme Hill up behind the leaders until the home turn where Nicky Henderson’s Champ pulled his way to the front. Thyme Hill got to within a length of the winner at the last but Champ found extra under Jonjo O’Neill Jr. and won by a length and three-quarters. Champ’s previous start had been 274 days earlier when pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Long Walk Hurdle had looked like a prep run before returning to fences but the style of his victory put him right in the picture for the Stayers’ Hurdle.

His prospects are probably accurately reflected in the Cheltenham betting at 9-2 for the Stayers and 20-1 for the Gold Cup. Thyme Hill finished three and a half lengths ahead of old rival Paisley Park at Ascot and is generally priced at 13-2 or 6-1 (with a run). His stable companion Sporting John is next in the betting at around 12-1 after winning a Pertemps qualifier under a big weight. He carries the colours of JP McManus who also owns Champ so is not a guaranteed starter.

This has the makings of a classic renewal and tactics could be the deciding factor. Flooring Porter’s best chance of a repeat victory is almost certainly to dictate the pace. He rates a solid each-way bet at 5-1 with a run with Bet365.