Cheltenham 2021 – Stayers’ Hurdle; Runner-by-Runner Guide

Aiden Coleman salutes the crowd after guiding Paisley Park to the Stayers' Hurdle 2019

Aiden Coleman salutes the crowd after guiding Paisley Park to the Stayers’ Hurdle 2019

2021 Cheltenham Festival Tips – Stayers Hurdle

The defection of Thyme Hill from this race has left 2019 Stayers Hurdle Paisley Park with a seemingly easier task but there are a host of top stayers ready to take him on in the feature race on day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival. Check out Daniel Overall’s runner-by-runner guide to the big race

Bacardys 66/1

Bacardys has been an admirable performer through the years and he did win a Grade 1 novice hurdle back In 2017, while his record in this race reads: F63.

Not at his best this season, he is a ten-year-old now and it may be that age is catching up with him although as Willie Mullins sole representative, he may outrun his odds.

Beacon Edge 20/1

Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan will be overjoyed by their shock success in the Boodles and Beacon Edge, who the trainer is reportedly very sweet on, wouldn’t be without a chance.

A decent novice hurdler last season, he’s taken his form to a new level this term with his victory over Fury Road in the Boyne Hurdle representing a career best although he was receiving two pounds from that rival.

Only a seven-year-old, he is still open to improvement while the past four winners of this race were of his age. He will need a career best but it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

Flooring Porter 15/2

Gavin Cromwell demonstrated with Darver Star last term that he is able to generate significant amounts of improvement from his horses, with Flooring Porter being the latest rapidly-progressive member of his stable.

Only a six-year-old, he beat the leading Pertemps Final fancy, The Bosses Oscar, in a handicap hurdle off a mark of 136 at Navan before connections took the bold decision of supplementing him for the Christmas Hurdle; their ambition was duly rewarded as he ran out a ready sixth length winner of that Grade 1 and while he did get the run of the race, he looked a far cry from the horse that was beaten off 118 at that meeting twelve months prior.

He has certainly earnt his spot in this line up although he will need to improve further if he is to win while he is unlikely to get an uncontested lead as he did over the Christmas period.

Fury Road 10/1

With Thyme Hill an unfortunate absentee, Fury Road is left as the sole representative of last season’s Albert Bartlett form; a race that has provided the past three winners of the Stayers’ Hurdle.

His run at Cheltenham last term was undoubtedly his best effort to date and while he hasn’t progressed as might’ve been hoped, he has had excuses and a return to Cheltenham and a larger field looks sure to suit.

It’s also worth noting that he was very well supported in the Christmas Hurdle while it’s interesting that he was kept hurdling this term despite the stable having Sire Du Berlais for that division.

While he will have to improve from his defeat in the Boyne Hurdle, a bigger field should help this dour stayer while stepping back up to three miles is certainly in his favour.

If The Cap Fits 22/1

Progressive over hurdles prior to his disappointing run in the 2020 Cleeve Hurdle, chasing hasn’t quite gone to plan this term for all that he put in some promising displays.

But on balance, he wouldn’t have been able to compete in the top-class novice chases while his lofty rating, which he partly accrued due to his success over hurdles, would have made life difficult in handicaps over the larger obstacles. With that in mind, going back over hurdles looks wise.

Cheekpieces go on for the first time but they’ll need to have a profound effect if he is to trouble the judge.

Lil Rockerfeller 66/1

You will struggle to find a more likeable horse in training that Lil Rockerfeller. Rated in excess of 160 back in 2017 having finished second in this race, it looked as if he might be in decline but he’s performed admirably well in two starts this season, for all that they came in handicap company.

Having worn either cheekpieces or blinkers on each of his last twelve starts, he will sport a visor here for the first time but it’s difficult to see it being enough for him to spring an upset, for all that he is a game and admirable horse.

Lisnagar Oscar 11/1

After springing a 50/1 surprise in last year’s renewal, it hasn’t been plain sailing for him this term but you could certainly take encouragement from his last run; after returning from wind surgery, he shaped with a considerable amount of promise in the Rendlesham which would have almost certainly been a prep run with a view to retaining his crown at Cheltenham.

A repeat of last year’s effort shouldn’t see him far away at the finish, for all that this is a better-looking renewal.

Main Fact 50/1

After wracking up a nine-timer under both codes, where he began his winning run off 104 in a class 4 handicap, Main Fact has found life tougher since he’s been forced into graded company.

Having been well beaten In the Long Walk and the Rendlesham, his connections, like so many others in this race, reach for first time headgear in the form of blinkers. With the bulk of his form coming on testing ground, which he is unlikely to get here, he rates an unlikely winner.

Paisley Park 2/1

The 2019 winner and current market leader, there were doubts surrounding him following bitterly disappointing run here last year, which was put down to a fibrillating heart issue.

He has returned in fine fettle this term, finishing second to and subsequently beating Thyme Hill in the Long-Distance Hurdle and the Long Walk respectively. While a perhaps a few pounds short of his best, those efforts showed that the fire still burns brightly and he is a worthy favourite.

However, he has missed a couple of intended prep runs and at the age of nine, he may just be vulnerable to younger legs, with only three of the past thirty-one winners being aged nine or older.

Reserve Tank 66/1

A Grade 1 winner as a novice hurdler back in 2019, he hasn’t built on that run while his novice chase campaign ended with him pulling up in last year’s Marsh after three underwhelming efforts.

He made his belated reappearance in the National Spirit where he was well beaten, for all that it was his first run for almost a year. Even allowing for improvement, he is up against it here.

Sam Spinner 66/1

Quirky but talented, Sam Spinner hasn’t beaten a rival home on his two starts this term and connections reach for first time blinkers in hope of a revival.

He was one of the top-rated novice chasers last season despite his less than fluent jumping while he was second in the 2019 renewal of this race and following a break, he would hold place claims if bouncing back and he could outrun his odds.

Sire Du Berlais 5/1

A two-time winner of the Pertemps Final, he comes alive at Cheltenham and in the spring. Many proclaimed that he would’ve won last year’s renewal of this race had he lined up there instead and while that’s tough to prove, his performance off 152 certainly entitled him to take his chance in graded company.

Slightly below par in the Christmas Hurdle, that run is forgivable and this race should see him in a better light. However, his last two trips to Cheltenham saw him equipped with first time cheekpieces and first-time blinkers respectively but no new headgear combination is being tried here. Whether that was the key before remains to be seen but at the prices, I’m happy to look elsewhere, especially with Barry Geraghty no longer in the saddle given how instrumental he was in his two Pertemps victories,

The Storyteller 12/1

An admirable horse over hurdles and fences, he’s shown no signs of regressing despite his ever-increasing age, with his last three starts all coming in Grade 1 company where he recorded form figures of: 122

With the Gold Cup trip looking a stretch too far, this looks to be the correct race for him and he does have previous form at Cheltenham, having won the Plate off 147 in 2018 and he also finished second to Sire Du Berlais in last season’s Pertemps; he meets that rival on three-pound worse terms here although he did finish ahead of him in the Christmas Hurdle.

Arguably in the form of his life, a big run would be no surprise.

Vinndication 8/1

Connections had been considering a tilt at the Gold Cup but after unseating last time out, they decided on a tilt at the Stayers instead. Rated 160 over the larger obstacles, he’s only had three starts over hurdles, with one of his wins in that sphere coming against Champ.

A close fourth in last seasons Ultima off 159, he undoubtedly has plenty of class and he’s the time you can envisage appreciating the return to hurdles.

Kim Bailey has been enthusiastic about his chances in the build up and he looks to have a good each way chance.

Younevercall 100/1

Kim Bailey’s “second-string”, he hasn’t been the easiest to keep sound by all accounts but e clearly possesses plenty of ability, as he showed when running out a ready winner of the Grade 2 Select Hurdle at Sandown back in 2019.

Second off 154 in a handicap on his first run this season, he ran with plenty of credit in the Long Walk before pulling up in the Relkeel. He went for wind surgery shortly after that run, with Kim Bailey noting that he should never have run him last time out.

His trainer also noted that he needs to go right-handed to be at his best, which is an obvious negative with this race in mind, with Vinndication being the stable’s best chance at success here.

Stayers Hurdle Big-Race Verdict:

A competitive renewal, Fury Road is taken to out run his odds. Vinndication is another live each way contender.