2020 Stayers’ Hurdle tips – Tips for day three feature at Cheltenham Festival

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

Stayers’ Hurdle Tips

Jon Vine takes a look through the betting for the feature Championship race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival and provides readers with his 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle tips on Thursday 12th March.

The Stayers’ Hurdle, oldest of the four Championship races, headlines day three of the Cheltenham Festival. First staged way back in 1912, some of the greatest hurdlers of all time have claimed victory in this three-mile slug-fest, with the names of Galmoy, Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Big Bucks shining bright on the roll of honour.

Attendees on St Patricks day can look forward to another fantastic renewal of this great race at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. I’ve taken a look through the most likely runners and come up with my 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle tips.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips – The Defending Champion

Paisley Park

Paisley Park’s (10/11 Paddy Power) transformation from dangerous handicapper to the most-feared staying hurdler around was completed at Cheltenham 12-months ago. Emma Lavelle’s star looked in trouble coming down Cleeve Hill, but the favourite made smooth progress once he found his stride and held off Sam Spinner to claim Stayers’ Hurdle glory.

Paisley Park has been out twice so far this season. First, scoring a comfortable victory in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle, before holding Summerville Boy at arm’s length to retain his Cleeve Hurdle crown. Lavelle’s star looks more mature this season, and hasn’t hit the flat-spots that caused problems throughout the previous year. Practically every expert will include Paisley Park as one of their 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle tips. He’s a must-have in any 2020 Cheltenham Festival accumulator.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips – The Home Challenge

Summerville Boy

Having found fences a little too tricky to deal with, Summerville Boy (10/1 Ladbrokes) made a triumphant return to hurdling at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day, powering to victory in the Relkeel Hurdle. Tom George’s charge then made a strong impression on his first start over three miles in the Cleeve, losing out to Paisley Park by less than two lengths. I doubt whether he has enough progression left in the tank to take Paisley Park off level-weights. The former Supreme winner has previous at the Festival, though, and remains open to further improvement.

If The Cap Fits

Harry Fry’s hurdler claimed the biggest victory of his career at Aintree last season, defeating Roksana and Apple’s Jade in a thrilling renewal of the Liverpool Hurdle. On the back of a smart victory over Call Me Lord, many were hoping If The Cap Fits (20/1 Paddy Power) would give Paisley Park something to think about in the Cleeve. As it turned out, Fry’s charge was beaten out of sight and the team will likely skip Cheltenham in favour of a return to Aintree.

The Worlds End

The World’s End (20/1 William Hill) took advantage of Paisley Park’s late withdrawal to win the Marsh Hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas. That was the second major victory of the season for George’s nine-year-old, having thrashed Unowhatimeanharry in the West Yorkshire Hurdle on his reappearance. The Worlds End couldn’t get within seven-length of Paisley Park when they met in the Long Walk. Yet, he has won at Cheltenham in the past and finished a seven-length seventh in this race two years ago. He could challenge for a place.

The Worlds End powers home to win the Grade One Marsh Hurdle.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips – The Raiding Party

Benie Des Dieux

Willie Mullins’ mare produced one of the performances of the season on her return to action in the Galmoy Hurdle. Benie Des Dieux (8/1 Paddy Power) defeated Penhill by 21-lengths without breaking a sweat, clocking a solid time in the process.

After ending last year with victory in France’s version of the Stayers’ Hurdle, many have speculated that Willie Mullins could target a showdown with Paisley Park at Cheltenham. While that’s something every National Hunt fan would love to see, Mullins and Rich Ricci aren’t romantics. They will go for the race they have the most chance of winning, which is undoubtedly the Mares’ Hurdle. I would be amazed if Benie Des Dieux features in the final field. She will not be one of my 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle tips.

City Island

Last year’s Ballymore winner was being touted as a potential Arkle or Marsh Novices’ Chase winner at the start of the new campaign. Yet, after two cumbersome appearances over the larger obstacles, Martin Brassill announced last month that City Island (14/1 Unibet) would return to hurdles and target the Stayers’. While his Ballymore victory over Champ last year was impressive, City Island simply doesn’t appeal to me at all at his revised price. There are much, much more reliable each-way options.

Penhill

Despite winning the Stayers’ Hurdle without a prior run during the regular season, Willie Mullins decided he would give Penhill (20/1 Unibet) a full campaign this term. Sadly, the two-time Festival winner hasn’t been able to recapture his best form after spending almost 600-days off the track. Penhill hasn’t got within 20-lengths of the winners in either the Hatton’s Grace, the Frank Ward Memorial or the Galmoy Hurdle. His best days seem to be behind him.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips – Overlooked Outsiders

Bacardys

Looked like he was going to blossom into a fearsome staying hurdler this term, having beaten Apple’s Jade comfortably in the Lismullen Hurdle and run well behind Honeysuckle in the Hattons’ Grace. Bacardys (25/1 Paddy Power) then flopped at Leopardstown over Christmas, labouring over the line miles behind Apple’s Jade. Willie Mullins’ charge was never travelling that day, and any horse can be forgiven one poor performance. Bacardys finished sixth in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle and was still going well before a late fall the previous year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he found his way into the places.

Lisnagar Oscar

Another who struggled over fences during the first half of the season. Rebecca Curtis’ charge then returned to hurdling and ran a cracking race on the front end in the Cleeve Hurdle, fading slightly before crossing the line a four-and-a-half-length third. Lisnagar Oscar (33/1 Ladbrokes) stayed on to finish fifth in last year’s Albert Bartlett, and he could equal that result with another career-best effort.

L’Ami Serge

After hitting the front too early in the Marsh Hurdle, allowing The Worlds End to get back up and win, many fancied L’Ami Serge (33/1 Unibet) to time his late charge better in the Cleeve Hurdle. Sadly, Nicky Henderson’s ten-year-old struggled around Cheltenham, failing to make any real inroads as Paisley Park powered to victory. Even though he has placed in some huge races here, L’Ami Serge is winless in eight starts around Cheltenham and I’m not sure it’s a track that really suits his running style.

Bacardys winning a Grade One as a novice.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips – Look At Those Odds

Apple’s Jade

Apple’s Jade (25/1 Paddy Power) looked to be back in full working order when bolting up at her beloved Leopardstown over Christmas. Fears the 11-time Grade One winner had fallen out of love with the game resurfaced at Gowran Park, though, where Apple’s Jade gave up the ghost very quickly after being passed. Gordon Elliott has stated his mare could be retired after Cheltenham, which is probably a wise move, as she simply won’t be good enough to win this three-miler. At least she will retire on the biggest of stages, which is what her fantastic career deserves.

Emitom

I fancied Emitom (33/1 William Hill) might shape up into a live challenger to Paisley Park at the end of last term. Injury struck just before the season commenced though, and Warren Greatrex has only been able to run Emitom once so far this term. That return came in the Relkeel Hurdle, where Emitom finished last after a terrible round of jumping. Connection decided to skip Cheltenham last year to focus on Aintree. They will probably to the same this time around.

Footpad

Defeats in the King George and to Real Steel at Thurles have left Willie Mullins with quite the conundrum on his hands. Footpad (33/1 William Hill) doesn’t have the speed for the Champion Chase and isn’t good enough for the Gold Cup. He was beaten out of sight in the Ryanair last year and Ireland’s top trainer has Min, Real Steel and Un De Sceaux earmarked for that two-and-a-half-miler. So, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Footpad could get thrown into the Stayers’ Hurdle and his odds would undoubtedly plummet if that was to happen. He won’t be one of my 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle tips at this stage, but that might change if he is indeed entered.

West Approach

Colin Tizzard’s charge finally ended a long losing streak at Cheltenham’s November Meeting, striking late to claim victory in the BetVictor Handicap Chase. Things haven’t gone to plan in races like the Ladbrokes Trophy and the Welsh Grand National since then, and a return to hurdles will certainly have been discussed. West Approach (50/1 Unibet) twice finished second to Paisley Park last season and, although he performed poorly here 12 months ago, he has the potential to catch a place carrying a big price.

Tobefair

An excellent handicap triumph under top-weight helped last year’s Pertemps runner-up reach a career-high mark of 154 earlier in the season. Tobefair (66/1 Ladbrokes) then placed third under another welter burden in the Listed Big Bucks Handicap here at Prestbury Park, and was far from disgraced when finishing sixth in the Cleeve Hurdle. Debra Hamer’s stable star has enjoyed a fairy-tale career and is more than worthy of a place in the Stayers’ Hurdle field. He would have to produce another career-best display to even challenge for a place, though.

Paisley Park beating Summerville Boy in the Cleeve Hurdle.

Stayers’ Hurdle tips – Verdict

Let’s not beat around the bush here. PAISLEY PARK is going to retain his Stayers’ Hurdle crown. Emma Lavelle’s star has certainly improved this season, and looks to have a little more progression left to come. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the reigning Champion is the strongest and most-consistent stayer since Big Bucks.

If you’re going to back Paisley Park with a single bet, you have to do it now. 10/11 is a good price, which will only get shorter as we get closer to the Festival.

That’s not the most original of Stayers’ Hurdle tips, I know. So, I’m going to have a second bet in this year’s race and try and find one who might place off a big price. Summerville Boy is almost guaranteed to place if he gets around, but he offers little value at 10/1. Footpad would appeal if declared and The Worlds End is worth more than a second look.

The one who offers the most appeal from an each-way stand-point though is BACARDYS. Willie Mullins’ charge is a proven Grade One-level performer and he has run well in this race in previous years. If Bacardys hadn’t run at Leopardstown over Christmas, he would almost certainly be a 12/1, 14/1 shot. As it is, he can currently be found at 25/1, which I don’t think is a fair reflection of his ability, or how he performed in the early stages of the season.

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