Stuart Williams has an in-depth look at the Stayers' Hurdle. He's got two selections at 10/1 and 12/1.
Stayers' Hurdle Tips
This contest has a history of producing reoccurring winners having gone the way of the Francois Doumen trained Baracouda in 2003 and 2004, Inglis Drever three times between 2005 and 2008, and the mighty Big Bucks four times between 2009 and 2012.
Lisnagar Oscar, whom returned to form in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock last month, and his predecessor on the thrown Paisley Park, whom suffered a fibrillating heart when placing seventh 12 months ago but bounced back to something like his best when landing the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December, have the opportunity to further strengthen those statistics next week, and both boast solid claims in their attempt to double up.
Much of the talk had revolved around Thyme Hill and Paisley Park following their respective victories at Newbury and Ascot prior to Christmas, and understandably so given that this race had been billed as the decider ever since the latter evened up the score. However, a minor setback for Thyme Hill has robbed us of that clash, leaving Paisley Park a short priced favourite in his absence.
The former champion clearly progressed from his seasonal reappearance at Newbury when gaining his revenge in jaw-dropping fashion at Ascot in December, and that power-packed finish confirmed that Andrew Gemmell's nine-year-old still possesses the requisite guts and gritty will to win when embroiled in the heat of a battle.
Indeed, the manner in which he rolled-up his sleeves and ran down Thyme Hill from a less than ideal track position clearly indicates that his troubles of last March are well and truly behind him and that he still possesses all of the attributes that have made him nigh-on unbeatable since October 2018.
Paisley Park is 3-5 over this course and distance, is effective on all types of ground and has upwards of 3lbs in hand over all of his rivals, therefore it's hard to find a negative in relation to his prospects. It is perhaps worth noting that he is also relatively lightly raced for his age, which counts for plenty in this division.
The only slight negative may be his lack of a 'prep' run following the abandonment of Cheltenham's Trial's Day card in January. However, Emma Lavelle mentioned that she was keen to go for a racecourse gallop last month, which should be a sufficient preparation.
No horse has regained this title since Inglis Drever wrestled back his crown in 2007 after missing the race 12 months earlier, and victory for Paisley Park would certainly cement his place in the history of this championship contest.
Stablemates Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller placed first and second in a classy renewal of the Pertemps Final last year, and guru's of the stopwatch will be quick to point out that Sire Du Berlais clocked a 3 seconds quicker time than Lisnagar Oscar over the same course and distance 80 minutes later, which certainly provides food for thought.
The former was doubling-up in the race off a mark of 152, and he actually carried 2lbs more than the Stayers' Hurdle winner. His successful return to action in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan demonstrated that he possesses the gears to hold a position at this level, and his rating isn't too far shy of those ahead of him in the betting.
I wouldn't be overly perturbed by his third placed finish in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown given that Flooring Porter was allowed to dictate matters from the front at a pedestrian pace and simply slipped the field as a result. Sire Du Berlais' victories at the last two Cheltenham Festival's clearly demonstrate that he is seen to effect in a truly run race, and there was danger of him being fully tuned-up for a race at that time of the season.
The JP McManus owned nine-year-old is 2-2 over this course and distance and seemingly comes to the boil at this time of year. He therefore holds sound claims in spite of his exposed status.
That said, I would have marginal preference for the latter given that he too boasts a wealth of Cheltenham Festival experience and has arguably taken his form to a whole new level this season.
Official ratings would certainly support that theory as The Storyteller currently boasts career high ratings over both hurdles and fences as a result of his exploits in both disciplines this season.
The 2018 Paddy Power Plate winner won over both hurdles and fences at Galway in the summer before plundering the Grade 3 Irish Daily Star Chase and Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Punchestown and Down Royal respectively. He then stayed on well to claim second place behind Flooring Porter at Leopardstown in December before switching back to fences and placing second, beaten just 2 lengths, in the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.
Keith Donoghue has struck up a fantastic relationship with The Storyteller, which may go some way to explaining why the likeable chestnut is still seemingly improving in spite of his age and exposed status.
Taking on a rejuvenated Paisley Park won't be easy and it's hard to envisage the popular ten-year-old improving further than he has already this winter. However, I would have probably said the same at the start of this season and he holds sound each-way claims at worst.
We must of course touch upon their Christmastime conquerer Flooring Porter, whom was beaten off a mark of 131 at Gowran Park in October before finding huge improvement on his last two starts.
Gavin Cromwell's progressive six-year-old proved 12 lengths too good for long-time Pertemps Final favourite The Bossess Oscar in competitive handicap company at Navan in December and clearly took another giant leap forwards when tasting Grade 1 success at Leopardstown over Christmas, albeit he was given free reign at the head of affairs and received a very good ride from Jonathan Moore.
Dandy Mag, whom won the Pertemps Qualifier run over the same course and distance 35 minutes earlier, clocked a 2 seconds quicker time than Flooring Porter but did carry 13lbs less.
It's entirely possible that Flooring Porter could have more to offer given his rate of progression and tender years. However, he has displayed a quirk or two and hung badly to his left after jumping the final flight of hurdles at Christmas, which does bring into question his maturity heading into the heat of a championship contest.
There are also question marks hanging over how he handle both the travelling and the track. However, they can't necessarily be thrown at him as negatives given that they may have no bearing whatsoever.
There are obviously no such concerns over the reigning champion Lisnagar Oscar, whom bounced back from two underwhelming efforts during the autumn when chasing home Third Wind, whom received 6lbs, in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock last month.
Sean Bowen was keen to ensure that it was a true test of stamina on that occasion and took up the running after the eighth flight of hurdles. I was particularly encouraged by how well he stuck too his task in the finish, and he may well have got back up with another half-furlong, which confirms his that both desire and determination remain intact.
Lisnagar Oscar underwent wind surgery prior to Haydock and that run would certainly suggest that it was a fruitful procedure. Therefore he could easily run a massive race in defence of his crown, providing that he didn't leave his race behind on Merseyside last month.
Roksana benefitted from the final hurdle fall of Benie De Dieux when landing the Mares' Hurdle in 2019, and it's odds-on that she will attempt to double up in that contest judged by the recent comments from connections.
Dan Skelton's mare placed second, beaten just a head, in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle over 3 miles at Aintree in April 2019, and - after failing to get her head in front in four starts over 2m4f last season - she made a successful seasonal reappearance in the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle (3m) at Wetherby in October.
The talented daughter of Dubai Destination followed-up that success with a fine third placed effort behind Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the aforementioned Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December, and she bounced back to winning ways in the Grade 2 Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares' Hurdle at Ascot in January - again over a trip of 3 miles.
Roksana has arguably been better than ever this season and I would much prefer to see her over this trip again, especially with the all-important 7lbs mares' allowance. Therefore she is one to consider should connections have a change of heart, which may be possible following the withdrawal of Thyme Hill.
Vinndication is a fascinating contender given that he is 3-3 over hurdles including a neck success over Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Champ, whom was in receipt of 6lbs.
There is plenty of a evidence to support the theory that Kim Bailey's classy eight-year-old is a significantly better horse on right-handed tracks. However, that didn't stop him from carrying top weight into fourth place in the Ultima Handicap Chase 12 months ago and he also ran well when chasing home Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby - albeit that form is now slightly suspect given that Paul Nicholls' once fearsome chaser has significant questions to answer after pulling-up on both of his subsequent starts.
Decent ground would not be an issue and, unlike last year, Vinndication has had a racecourse gallop in preparation for this content, which could easily make a massive difference.
Kim Bailey hasn't hidden the fact they he considers the eight-year-old to be a Gold Cup horse, which is obviously high praise indeed. And although he's seems to have been around forever, he remains lightly raced with just 12 career starts to his name.
Stablemate Younevercall was far from disgraced when placing fourth behind Paisley Park, Thyme Hill and Roksana in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot but clearly needs to improve upon that effort now that he has the best of Ireland to contend with too.
Diol Ker defeated the mighty Monkfish and well regarded Escaria Ten in a deep novice hurdle at Fairyhouse last season, and he bounced back to something like his best when beaten half-a-length in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in January.
Noel Meade's seven-year-old failed to take to fences during the autumn and could easily progress further in this sphere. However, he will need to take a big step forwards on what he has shown thus far, and others make far greater appeal.
Fury Road wouldn't be without a chance if rediscovering the level of form that saw him finish third behind Monkfish in last year's Albert Bartlett, and he was only two-and-a-half-lengths behind second favourite Sire Du Berlais at Christmas.
Monkfish, Lastest Exhibition and Thyme Hill have advertised the Albert Bartlett form time and time again this winter and Fury Road has done little wrong given that he scoped badly after failing to justify favouritism at Christmas and was chinned by a 154 rated rival whom got within a length of Honeysuckle in the Hattons Grace Hurdle when placing second in the Boyne Hurdle last month.
Stepping back-up to 3 miles could eke out improvement judged on his performance in the Cotswolds 12 months ago, and the last three winners of this race had all contested the previous year's Albert Bartlett - suggesting that there may have been a power shift towards the less exposed horses in this division.
It is perhaps worth nothing that he landed his point-to-point and solitary bumper success on good ground, therefore conditions may prove favourable.
Fellow Gigginstown House Stud inmate Beacon Edge, whom got the better of Fury Road in the aforementioned Boyne Hurdle last month, could easily run a big race if seeing out this longer trip.
Noel Meade has always held the smart son of Doyen in high regard and he was beaten less than a length by Champiom Hurdle favourite Honeysuckle in the Grade 1 Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November, which demonstrates the ability that he possesses.
Decent ground hasn't posed an issue in the past and he could conceivably improve for it given that he boasts form-figures of 14311 on ground officially described as yielding or quicker. Therefore he wouldn't be without a chance if his stamina holds out.
Main Fact won nine consecutive races including the valuable Grade 3 Betfair Exchange Stayers Handicap Hurdle at Haydock before being found out in Grade 1 company at Ascot and Grade 2 company at Haydock. While If The Cap Fits defeated Roksana and Apple's Jade in the 2019 Liverpool Hurdle and will return to hurdling after an indifferent spell over fences.
The former clearly needs to take another step forwards and may prefer softer ground than he is likely to encounter. While the latter only has 7lbs to find with Paisley Park on official ratings and will appreciate some nice spring ground.
Sam Spinner chased home Paisley Park two years ago but has failed to beat a single rival home in two starts this season. While last year's third Bacardys should not be ignored but does have a tendency to be the bridesmaid and not the bride, which makes little appeal from a win perspective.
The good ground loving Reserve Tank won a brace of Grade 1 novice hurdles in the spring of 2019. While the ever consistent Lil Rockerfeller placed second in this contest in 2017 and has ran with credit twice this season.
Both possess the ability to outperform market expectations if rolling back the years.
Heaven Help Us chased home Champion Hurdle hopeful Abacadabras in a Grade 1 novice hurdle last season and she bounced back to form when landing a competitive mares handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. However, these are clearly much deeper waters and she is yet to prove her stamina.
Cheltenham Stayers' Hurdle Prediction
Paisley Park sets a very high standard and has few, if any, negatives heading into this contest. While dual Pertemps scorer Sire Du Berlais was impressive on the clock 12 months ago and a reproduction of that effort would put him firmly in the mix.
His Christmastime conquerer Flooring Porter should not be readily passed aside given his scope for further improvement. While defending champion Lisnagar Oscar shaped encouragingly at Haydock last month and could easily run well on his second start since undergoing wind surgery.
Roksana would be an danger to all if lining up here with the all important 7lbs mares allowance, and Vinndication is a fascinating contender given that he is 3-3 in this sphere including a victory over Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Champ.
However, THE STORYTELLER has walked every walk and danced every dance yet still seems to have taken his form to a new level this winter. His last two runs over fences have seen him land the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal and place second in the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup last month, and he did well to claim second place behind Flooring Porter at Christmas given that he was settled in rear off a slow pace.
The popular ten-year-old made up plenty of ground after the final flight of hurdles and clearly gets on well with Keith Donoghue. We know that he loves Cheltenham and his runner-up effort last year puts him on a par with Sire Du Berlais, whom is currently half the price of the The Storyteller. He therefore represents fantastic each-way value.
FURY ROAD meets the recent trend of having run in the previous year's Albert Bartlett and he could easily run well if rediscovering that form.
Monkfish, Lastest Exhibition and Thyme Hill have advertised that form time and time again this winter and Fury Road has done little wrong given that he scoped badly after failing to justify favouritism at Christmas and was chinned by a 154 rated rival whom got within a length of Champion Hurdle favourite Honeysuckle in the Grade 1 Hattons Grace Hurdle when placing second over two-and-a-half-miles at Navan last month.
Connections seemed undecided about whether to bring him over for this contest in the immediate aftermath of that defeat. However, he arguably ran a career best over this course and distance 12 months ago and he remains open to further improvement, which isn't necessarily the case with some of those ahead of him in the betting.