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Let’s start by looking at the stats for the winners: 

  • 3 of the last 10 favourites have won 
  • Crimson Embers (1986) was the last horse aged 10 or over to win the race 
  • 5 of the last 7 winners have returned £10+ on the Tote 
  • There have been 7 multiple winners of this race 
  • 7-year-olds have won 4 of the last 5 renewals 
  • The handicapper has allotted an average mark of 164 to the last 5 winners 

Finding the winner

Ted Walsh recently said that nobody gets up in the morning with the aim of breeding the winner of the Stayers hurdle and that perhaps perfectly sums up the makeup of this race. Horses run in the Stayers hurdle either because they are too slow to run over shorter or because they are too high in the weights to be competitive in handicaps or because they have tried chasing and didn’t take to the fences. Big Buck’s is the prime example of this, a promising horse who didn’t take to chasing but returned to hurdles to become arguably the greatest staying hurdler of all time.  

This year’s race has a typically competitive feel to it, but each horse that features prominently in the market has met a few bumps in the road along the way. There have been 7 multiple winners of the race (Big Buck’s, Inglis Drever, Baracouda, Galmoy, Crimson Embers, Warwick, and Silver Bay), so there is every reason to believe that the 7-year-old FLOORING PORTER can repeat last year’s heroics. This race can throw up some surprises, Lisnagar Oscar returned £86.70 in 2020 for example and for every short-priced winner like Thistlecrack (2016) and Big Bucks (2009-2012), there is a shock winner.

After his win in the Cleeve hurdle, Paisley Park looks a lively contender, though he would be the first 10-year-old winner in over 35 years. In truth this race is always relatively open, and no one should put you off backing anything given the somewhat random nature of the results in the last 10-years. 

Place Betting 

Unlike the other championship races at the Festival, the market has far less success when attempting to predict the outcome of the Stayers hurdle. 3 of the last 10 favourites have won the race, but 5 of those 10 favourites have failed to finish in the frame and that leaves the race open for each-way punters. The grueling nature of the race and the fact that the field only jump 2 flights in the final 7-furlongs of the contest mean that many horses have run out of petrol long before they reach the last and it can take on a “survival of the fittest” status. Dour stayers have been the way to approach this, Ronald Pump, Lil Rockerfeller, Sam Spinner and Sire Du Berlais are the most obvious recent examples.

On paper, they have climbed out of the handicap ranks where they have excelled in strongly run races, but there is more to it than that. These races are very rarely tactical and are generally run at an end-to-end gallop, which leaves many horses crying enough on the run-in. Most horses who have run into the frame would probably stay 5-miles if asked and whilst they can be outpaced on the run down the hill, they can keep on under pressure.  

Exotics 

In a race with such an open nature it will come as no surprise that the Exacta and Trifecta markets can offer some enormous returns. In 2020, Lisnagar Oscar beat Ronald Pump and Bacardys, returning an Exacta premium of £1464 and causing a rollover on the trifecta because it was so difficult to predict that nobody landed it.  

There are 4 key races throughout the season that need to be studied, the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, the Christmas hurdle at Leopardstown and the Relkeel and Cleeve hurdles at Cheltenham in January. The horses who have made the frame in recent seasons have run in these races. For 2020, that brings in almost all the principles in the market, with the exception that the Relkeel hurdle winner Stormy Ireland is much more likely to run in the Mares hurdle.

This is an open year and whilst we can make a case for so many to hit the frame, we can also ask a lot of questions. Will Paisley Park jump off? Will Klassical Dream be lit up by the noise of the festival as he was before the Supreme? Is Thyme Hill in the same form he was 12-months ago? What will Champ find off the bridle?

With so many doubts over some of these horses, it may be worth throwing in Sire Du Berlais or Thomas Darby. They could well be outclassed for win purposes, but they are more consistent and so are more likely to run their race and stay on at the finish.  


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