Andy Holding previews the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival 2023 as Champ and Paisley Park shorten after the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Stayers' Hurdle 2023See All Odds
One of the most fascinating and wide-open markets of the entire Cheltenham Festival is undoubtedly the Stayers’ Hurdle, with no real standout candidate at this stage. As such, it’s probably worth taking a closer look at some of the more likely players to see if they offer up any value.
Flooring Porter, winner of the three-mile championship event for the last two years, has to be the logical starting point, and while some might have been disappointed with his slightly underwhelming seasonal bow at Navan recently, let’s not forget he was running over a trip short of his best.
Better judged on his record in the two big Grade 1’s over his optimum distance at Leopardstown and Cheltenham respectively, Gavin Cromwell’s gelding still has to be favourite (11/2 best price) no matter which way you strip it down. That said, the current champion is clearly beatable when not quite at his best, so there is plenty of hope for something else to come along and spoil the party.
Up until suffering an almost like-ending injury prior to contesting the Long Walk Hurdle last year, it looked like Buzz was going to provide Flooring Porter with the biggest threat, but with Nicky Henderson’s gelding still undergoing his recovery, he’s simply too big a risk to contemplate getting involved with from an ante-post perspective.
Another one who is enduring a period of time on the side lines is Blazing Khal, and while there have at least been positive bulletins emulating from the Charles Byrnes camp that he will return to action in the not too distant future (Dublin Racing Festival mooted as the possible return date), he’s still one to treat with caution for the time being – especially at general odds of 6/1 (7/1 best price).
One who is definitely out for the season is last year’s Albert Bartlett hero, The Nice Guy, so it seems strange to say the very least that he’s still available to back with some firms at 10/1.
Two that are very much alive and kicking, however, are Champ and Paisley Park, who fought out a tremendous finish to the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last week. In what turned out to be one of the highlights of the season so far, Nicky Henderson’s gelding just got the better of his old rival in a driving finish and on the evidence of that race, both seem as good as they have ever been.
The only issue with the pair is, come March next year, they will both be 11 and looking back at the history of the Stayers’ Hurdle, only Crimson Embers in 1986, has won aged in double figures.
Of the younger generation, Bob Olinger at least proved that there could be some mileage in him back over hurdles, it’s just a case of whether he will stay beyond 2m4f. Until he proves that to be the case, probably in the Grade 1 at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, the jury is still out.
Klassical Dream (12/1 best price) is an immensely talented horse, but he’s also seemingly only capable of running to a very high level once a season, so that makes backing him for Cheltenham fraught with danger. There’s also rumours that he might go over fences this season, adding further confusion to him as an ante-post project.
Some of the other names with quotes, Sir Gerhard is more likely to go down the Champion Hurdle route if he does stay over hurdles, and the same can be said for stable mate State Man, who surely has too much speed to ever be considered a Stayers’ Hurdle horse anyway.
Marie’s Rock is potentially an interesting gate-crasher in this division having twice proven herself at Grade 1 level, it’s just a case of whether she’s ends up being equally effective over three miles than 2m4f.
Andy Holding’s Stayers’ Hurdle 2023 Ante-Post Tips
All of the above will have their backers for the race, but at this stage I’d probably be looking at a 0.5 point win on the following two horses.
HOME BY THE LEE sprung a big surprise beating both Bob Olinger and Flooring Porter in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan and while some may have seen that result as a fluke, time may tell he won on merit.
Off the bridle a long way from home at the Co Meath track, his stamina ended up being the key component to his success and let’s not forget, he didn’t run too badly in last season’s Stayers’ at Cheltenham when still very much a work in progress.
Seemingly improved since, Joseph O’Brien’s gelding probably represents the best value of those proven at the top level at 25/1.
Another one quoted at bigger odds who could end up going down this route is RUN FOR OSCAR, especially if stable mate Blazing Khal doesn’t get back to full fitness in time.
Winner of the Cesarewitch, when his stamina very much came into play, Charles Byrnes’ gelding ran really well in a quality three-mile handicap at Haydock recently under a big weight to suggest he’s not a million miles off from Graded class.
Whether he remains in handicaps and goes for something like the Pertemps only time will tell, but in a category that lacks any kind of clarity, it’s not the craziest idea ever to think he could end up being a dangerous floater – especially when you consider where Flooring Porter began life before ending up in Grade 1 company.