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The Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle, previously known as the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, (3:20pm) is a Class A Grade One hurdle run over three miles. It is open to horses aged four years old and upwards. 

The Stayers Hurdle has taken on increased significance in its own right in recent years, thanks o the exploits of the great French champion, Baracouda, who won the race twice and then finished second twice, and subsequently three-time winner Inglis Drever. 

2018 Stayers' Hurdle Tips

Brian Healy gives his big-race preview of Thursday's third day highlight at the Cheltenham Festival, the Stayers' Hurdle.

The big feature race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the Stayers’ Hurdle will go to post at 3.30pm on Festival Thursday, and another classic contest ought to unfold for bragging rights over the three mile trip.

The fourth race of a seven race card on day three, a first prize in excess of £180,000 awaits the winner of this classy Grade One, and a big field will assemble for the premier staying hurdle which has been won by the likes of Thistlecrack, Big Buck’s, Inglis Drever and Baracouda in recent years. 

Supasundae (4/1, Paddy Power) won last season’s Coral Cup on this card, and Jessica Harrington’s charge has continued his progression, pushing Yanworth close at Aintree on his next start.

The Galileo gelding has run well on all three starts this term, unfortunate to twice bump into Apple’s Jade and then dropping to two miles to beat Faugheen at Leopardstown in February to win the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Sam Spinner
Sam Spinner.
He looks sure to give a good account back up in trip, while Sam Spinner (5/1, William Hill) has improved in leaps and bounds this term, and Jedd O’Keefe’s charge chases a hat-trick having blitzed rivals by a wide margin at Haydock prior to seeing off the likes of L’ami Serge and Unowhatimeanharry when winning the Long Walk Hurdle.

The World’s End (25/1, William Hill), Thomas Campbell (33/1, Coral) and last season’s runner-up Lil Rockerfeller were all behind him that day, and the lightly-raced Black Sam Bellamy gelding can continue to improve. It will be harder for him to boss this stronger field from the front, but he has passed every test asked of him thus far and with the potential for better still he can’t be ruled out especially if the ground comes up soft.

Unowhatimeanharry (14/1, Paddy Power) is perhaps best when fresh, so returning from a break he could do better than at Ascot last time; but he was soundly beaten behind Jedd O’Keefe’s charge, and last season’s third may struggle to reverse that form.

Lil Rockerfeller (25/1, Ladbrokes) was beaten at Fontwell recently in the National Spirit Hurdle; Neil King’s charge hasn’t built on his Ascot win in the Coral Hurdle, beaten a long way behind Sam Spinner in the Long Walk Hurdle prior to that Fontwell contest.

He ran a blinder to finish less than one length behind Nichols Canyon in this race twelve months ago, but he needs to bounce back from a couple of lesser runs if he’s to match that level of form. This looks a stronger renewal than the race twelve months ago, and while not out of things at his best he may well have to settle for minor honours again.

The New One (12/1, Coral) tries three miles for the first time, having come up short in the Champion Hurdle in the past few seasons; Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge shapes as if he will stay, and the high-class Kayf Tara gelding can post a big effort if he stays the longer trip.

He beat Ch’Tibello last time in the Haydock Champion Hurdle Trial, digging deep to get back up having been headed and looking beaten; he perhaps is just held back by his jumping on occasion though where he can put in an odd mistake, and while he is a classy performer he may well come up short against some proven stayers.

Ballyoptic.
Ballyoptic may take in the RSA Chase rather than the Stayers' Hurdle.
Ballyoptic
 (50/1, William Hill) meanwhile was pulled up in the race twelve months ago, and having finished fifth to Yanworth at Aintree, and then filling the same position behind Beer Goggles at Newton Abbot on his return he has embarked on a chasing career where despite winning twice over the larger obstacles he hasn’t been convincing.

He was held in several starts last term though behind Unowhatimeanharry, and that rival could again prove too strong for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge who may return to hurdles for this contest although the RSA Chase looks a more likely target for the Old Vic gelding.  

Albert Bartlett winners don’t have a great record when stepping into the Stayers’ Hurdle, so last years’ winner of the novices’ stayers hurdle Penhill (10/1, Paddy Power) will have to step up. He hasn’t been seen since finishing runner-up to Champagne Classic at Punchestown, and Willie Mullins’ Mount Nelson gelding may need this first run.

Mullins may hold stronger claims with Bacardys (12/1, William Hill) who pulled up in last season’s Neptune Hurdle having been badly hampered by a faller and losing all chance; he had won both previous starts, which included the Deloitte, and he bounced back from that Festival mishap to score over Finian’s Oscar at Punchestown.

He has had two starts this term over fences, looking in need of the run at Naas prior to falling behind Snow Falcon at Leopardstown over Christmas and he has been absent since; reportedly working well at home, a return to hurdling could coincide with a big effort over the longer trip which is expected to suit the Coastal Path gelding.

Faugheen (16/1, William Hill) holds an entry in this contest, but he will surely go to the Champion Hurdle; while Let’s Dance (33/1, William Hill) won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle twelve months ago, but the Poliglote mare has since found Augusta Kate (40/1, William Hill) and Bacardys both too strong since.

A Leopardstown winner over Christmas, she could only finish fifth behind Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle, shaping like a non-stayer, although the heavy ground probably wasn’t condusive to her posting her best.

Better ground would help, but she nevertheless has a lot more to do if taking in this contest and a crack at Apple’s Jade in the Mares’ Hurdle looks more likely for her. She also has a Coral Cup entry.

Finians’ Oscar (16/1, Unibet) pulled up when last seen, and a wind operation was talked about for the Oscar gelding who hasn’t looked altogether a natural chaser in earlier starts after running poorly at Cheltenham on his return to hurdles. He ran in snatches when failing to complete in the Cleeve Hurdle, possibly unsuited by the heavy ground; but he reportedly made a noise during the race and has undergone a surgery on his palate.

The JLT Novices’ Chase appears a more likely target for him in any case, and it would be a surprise to see him line up in this contest.

Lami Serge
L'ami Serge is proving hard to win with.
L’ami Serge
 (12/1, Ladbrokes) looks hard to win with, but she has gone close on all starts at this venue including when denied by a neck behind Arctic Fire in the County Hurdle last term; while Wholestone will need to step up on his defeat behind Agrapart in the Cleeve Hurdle although his course record marks him of some interest. He can improve, although he was beaten behind Penhill in the Albert Bartlett. Most of his winning has been done over shorter than three miles, so he could prove vulnerable back at this distance.

YANWORTH (5/1, Coral) bombed in last season’s Champion Hurdle, but he had looked increasingly last term as if he needed a stiffer test than two mile. Alan King’s charge subsequently beat Supasundae when upped to three miles to win at Aintree prior to embarking on the chasing trail this term.

The Norse Dancer gelding has won twice from four starts over fences, including last time in the Dipper Novices’ Chase, and he boasts an excellent Cheltenham record. Not given the greatest of rides when sent off favourite for the 2016 Neptune Hurdle - now the Ballymore - he was disqualified from last season’s Champion Hurdle having tested positive for a banned substance.

He beat Supasundae a shade cosily at Aintree, and there is a suspicion he may have more to offer over hurdles. A strong traveller, he ought to get the race run to suit, and he can post a big run reverting to hurdles.

Jer’s Girl (40/1, Coral) fell when still going ok behind Apple’s Jade in the Mares’ Hurdle last term, and she has acquitted herself well in all starts this term, finishing runner-up to Gordon Elliott’s wonder-mare again at Navan prior to finding La Bague Au Roi (20/1, Paddy Power) too strong at Kempton last time.

Gavin Cromwell’s charge also holds engagements in the Mares’ Hurdle again, as well as the Coral Cup, and the Jeremy mare is likely to take in one of those assignments. This looks too tough, and if she lines up for this contest then it is hard to see her coming out on top.

La Bague Au Roi similarly holds an entry in the Mares’ Hurdle as well as this contest, but Warren Greatrex could be tempted to let the Doctor Dino mare take her chance in this contest having won well at Ascot last time. 

She ran out an easy 16-length winner of the Warfield Hurdle, beating Sainte Ladylime, and while this demands more in an open Grade One, she would be in receipt of 7lbs from her rivals in what looks a fairly open renewal. 

Colin’s Sister (33/1, William Hill) beat Wholestone to win the West Yorkshire Hurdle on her return to action, but she has since been beaten in all starts which include behind the same rival in the Relkeel Hurdle, and again when beaten into third in the Cleeve Hurdle.

Fergal O’Brien’s charge faces a very tough ask in this company; while Old Guard (33/1, William Hill) has been resurgent this term and beat Lil Rockerfeller at Fontwell latest to post his third win of the season. The Notnowcato gelding would have stamina to prove over this longer trip, while a busy season may catch up to him; while he has something to find on form with Wholestone who comfortably had him in arrears in the Relkeel Hurdle.

Thomas Cambell, Knight Of Noir (100/1, Ladbrokes) and Lieutenant Colonel (100/1, Coral) all look up against it in this company and are hard to fancy; while Monalee (33/1, William Hill) heads the RSA Chase betting and it would be a surprise to see Henry de Bromhead’s charge in the line-up for this race.

VERDICT


The Stayers’ Hurdle looks wide open this year, and there are plenty holding solid claims; not least Supasundae and Sam Spinner. The latter in particular has looked a hugely progressive sort, beating a few potential rivals when claiming the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.

However, YANWORTH (5/1, Coral) stepped up on his disappointing Champion Hurdle run - subsequently disqualified - when beating Supasundae at Aintree; he has been campaigning with some success over fences this term, winning the Dipper Novices’ Chase; but returning to hurdles, he could have more to offer over three miles, and with a good record at this venue - the Champion Hurdle excluded - then he can make a winning return to timber.

La Bague Au Roi looked classy when scoring at Ascot last time, and Warren Greatrex’s charge can continue to improve; she would be getting 7lbs from the boys if lining up here, and with this longer trip clearly to her liking, connections may be tempted to take their chance in this contest rather than clash with Apple’s Jade.

She could be worth an each-way interest in a pretty open renewal.

2018 STAYERS’ HURDLE SELECTION - YANWORTH (5/1, Coral), La Bague Au Roi (20/1, Paddy Power)

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