Stayers’ Hurdle tips – Big-race guide to Thursday’s Grade One feature

Stayers' Hurdle tips. Paisley Park can win a second Stayers' Hurdle on day three of Cheltenham.Stayers' Hurdle tips. Paisley Park can win a second Stayers' Hurdle on day three of Cheltenham.

Brian Healy takes a look over the Thursday big-race field and gives his Stayers’ Hurdle tips and verdict for the Cheltenham Festival feature race on the third day of the ‘greatest show on turf’.

We’re already into the third day of another fantastic Cheltenham Festival and Thursday’s feature race is the Stayers’ Hurdle which goes to post at 3.30pm as the fourth race of the afternoon on another cracking racecard.

The three-mile contest has a history of throwing up multiple winners and Emma Lavelle’s star returns to the scene of his greatest triumph in a bid to retain the crown he won twelve months ago.

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look over Thursday’s big race field where he gives his Stayers’ Hurdle tips and verdict for the day’s feature race.

2020 STAYERS’ HURDLE TIPS – BRIAN HEALY’S SELECTION

ASK DILLON


A dual-winner last term who has made the frame twice this term in starts at Chepstow and Sandown, latterly finding only Limited Reserve too strong in the Grade Three Heroes Handicap Hurdle although he was beaten four lengths.

Fergal O’Brien’s charge was thought good enough to take his chance in last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle but he cut little ice there and probably isn’t up to this level. First-time cheekpieces are applied which might help to sharpen him up but he has plenty to find on form and is hard to fancy on his exploits to date.

BACARDYS


Very smart at his best but perhaps hasn’t reached the heights hoped of him. Willie Mullins’ charge ended his barren streak when winning a Grade Two contest at Navan back in December, but he’s tasted defeat on both starts since and he’s been beaten on both previous starts in this race.

He was beaten more than twenty lengths behind Paisley Park in this race twelve months ago and likely to find that rival too strong again although he could make the frame if running up to his best.

He disappointed when last seen in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle however and a bounce-back is called for here.

CITY ISLAND


Won last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle as part of a four-run winning streak, beating RSA Chase winner Champ by two lengths.

Martin Brassil’s charge failed to back up that win next time when only sixth in the Punchestown Champion Novice in May although may have been amiss. He’s returned this term with two starts over fences which includes finishing runner-up to Carefully Selected when last seen and returns to hurdles having had a break and wind surgery.

He’s an interesting contender if seeing out this extra trip although he hasn’t appeared to be crying out for this step up in distance.

Stayers' Hurdle tips. City Island represents last season's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle form.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips. City Island represents last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle form.

DONNA’S DIAMOND


2018 Rendlesham Hurdle winner before finishing eleventh to Penhill in that year’s renewal of this race.

Chris Grant’s charge won over fences during the 2018/19 season and found only Emitom too strong in the recent Rendlesham Hurdle, beaten eight lengths although no match for the winner.

He’s sure to be sharper with that run under his belt but he was probably flattered latest and overall form leaves him with a good bit to do here.

EMITOM


Enjoyed plenty of success last term as a novice, winning three times over hurdles before finding only Champ too strong at Aintree when upped to this trip.

Warren Greatrex’s charge disappointed on his return behind Summerville Boy here on New Years’ Day but may have needed the outing and he stepped up markedly on that effort to run out an impressive winner of the Rendlesham, travelling well throughout.

This will demand another forward step, but he’s still unexposed as a stayer and could have more to come. He’s a live player here and could give Paisley Park something to think about if progressing again.

L’AMI SERGE


Very talented but enigmatic sort who has his quirks but is capable of playing a big part if in the mood.

Nicky Henderson’s King’s Theatre gelding has some decent Cheltenham Festival form to his name, finishing runner-up in the 2017 County Hurdle before winning twice later that term which included a Grade Two contest at Sandown and in a French Grade one.

Also a Grade One winner at Aintree back in April 2018, beating Supasundae, and he made a really pleasing return from a long absence when beaten only by The Worlds End at Ascot on her return.

Failed to back up that effort in the Cleeve Hurdle but capable of bouncing back although he’ll need to be delivered to be in front right on the line and he’s shown more than once he’s not one for a battle.

Stayers' Hurdle tips. L'ami Serge is capable but quirky.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips. L’ami Serge is capable but quirky.

LISNAGAR OSCAR


Won the Grade Two Prestige Novices’ Hurdle last term enroute to a solid fifth in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle here behind Minella Indo. That run was followed up by an excellent third behind Champ at Aintree.

Emma Lavelle’s charge shaped really well on his chase debut at Chepstow but failed to back up that run next time and he’s struggled since coming back over hurdles although his latest run in the Cleeve Hurdle when finishing third was much more like it.

He has more to do on level weights this time around having got 3lbs last time; but he could go well at a price and makes some appeal as an each-way play.

PAISLEY PARK


Defending champion who won this contest as part of a five-win streak and Emma Lavelle’s charge has looked as good as ever this term in winning both starts this campaign which includes a ready succcess over Summerville Boy to win the Cleeve Hurdle.

The Oscar gelding had won the same race enroute to success in this contest and he treads a familiar path where he can successfully defend his crown.

He flew up the hill twelve months ago when looking beaten turning in; but his latest success hinted that he still had something more to offer and he can continue to improve where he could dominate the stayers’ division for a few years to come.

PENHILL


Won this race in 2018 having taken the Albert Bartlett Hurdle in 2017. Willie Mullins’ charge has shown he retains all his ability following a lengthy absence to make the frame in each of his last three starts following a fair reappearance at Fairyhouse.

Third in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, he has found only Benie Des Dieux and Cracking Smart too strong in the Galmoy Hurdle and Boyne Hurdle respectively and the Mount Nelson gelding can make his presence felt again back at the scene of his biggest win.

Dangerous to discount he looks a solid each-way option although Paisley Park may just hold too many guns for him here.

RONALD PUMP


An improving sort in Ireland over fences this term, winning at Fairyhouse before chasing home Fakir D’oudairies at the same venue in December.

Matthew Smith’s charge returned to hurdling to find only Treacysenniscorthy too good in a handicap at Leopardstown before finishing fourth to Carefully Selected latest.

The Schiaparelli gelding is back over hurdles here but form in Ireland leaves him with plenty to do although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a big run without being quite good enough to trouble the principals.

SUMMERVILLE BOY


2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner who struggled last term out of novices’ company, failing to trouble the judge in four starts.

Following wind surgery and six months off the track he made a winning return to action when successful over fences at Uttoxeter although he fell next time in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase. That fall must have dented confidence and he was quickly returned to hurdles where he beat 2019 Mares’ Hurdle winner Roksana in the Relkeel Hurdle here on New Years’ Day.

The Sandmason gelding pushed Paisley Park hard in the Cleeve Hurdle but was ultimately well held behind the defending champion and he may again have to play second fiddle to Emma Lavelle’s defending champion.

Stayers' Hurdle tips. Summerville Boy could emerge as chief danger to Paisley Park.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips. Summerville Boy could emerge as chief danger to Paisley Park.

THE JAM MAN


Has improved markedly for a longer trip, winning four on the spin over fences and hurdles either side of a five months’ absence.

Ronan McNally’s Papal Bull gelding beat Tout Es Permis at Navan in December and he’s since finished fourth and runner-up in subsequent outings here behind Skandiburg and at Leopardstown in February behind Treacysenniscorthy.

This is a first start in Graded company however and he’s likely flying too high here.

TOBEFAIR


Very useful at his best, finishing runner-up in last season’s Pertemps Final before striking back-to-back wins either side of six months off over course and distance.

Di Hamer’s charge finished third in a Listed contest here in November behind Golan Fortune, but he proved no match for Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle and he’s likely to find things too tough here.

WEST APPROACH


Has become increasingly unreliable but put it all together to win over fences here in November.

Colin Tizzard’s charge has largely struggled since though over fences asides from finishing runner-up to Cogry here in December in the BetVictor Handicap Chase and he was soundly beaten behind Emitom at Haydock latest.

The King’s Theatre gelding could only finish ninth in this race twelve months ago and his Festival record overall is poor. Others look to hold stronger claims here despite the reapplication of headgear and he’s likely to struggle again.

APPLE’S JADE


Top-class mare at her best and showed she is still a force to be reckoned with when blitzing rivals to win the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle.

Gordon Elliott’s Saddler Maker mare has to bounce back from a desperate effort when last seen pulling up behind Benie Des Dieux at Gowran Park in the Galmoy Hurdle and blinkers are now deployed in a bid to rekindle her fortunes.

Far from out of this if back to her best, she would be a popular winner. But that latest run however is offputting and despite still only being an eight-year old there is a suspicion she might not be the force she was.

Stayers' Hurdle tips. Can Apples Jade bounce back to form?

Stayers’ Hurdle tips. Can Apples Jade bounce back to form?

2020 STAYERS’ HURDLE TIPS – BIG-RACE VERDICT

PAISLEY PARK improved out of all recognition last term to win all five starts which culminated in a win in this race twelve months ago; Emma Lavelle’s charge can continue his dominance of the stayers’ division and mount a successful title defence.

The Oscar gelding is 2-2 this term, making a winning return to action when beating former champion Thistlecrack in the Newbury Long Distance Hurdle before readily seeing off Summerville Boy latest over course and distance in the Cleeve Hurdle.

He had looked one of the first beaten in this race twelve months ago before storming up the hill, and the latest Cleeve Hurdle was a messy race which he did well to overcome and strike in good style. There’s a suspicion that he still has more under the hood as he won with his ears pricked last time and he ought to prove a tough nut to crack once more as he bids to land a second successive win in this race.

He can continue to dominate this division with another success and extend his unbeaten record to eight successive wins.