Cheltenham - At The Races

15:30 Cheltenham 14 Mar 2019

Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4YO plus)

Winner £182,878 - 18 ran

4

2m 7f 213y

Good to Soft (soft in places)

View Course Guide

Weighed In

Josh Apiafi
by Josh Apiafi

At first glance the long-distance hurdling championship has been a decent race for favourites, with four market leaders having obliged in the last decade, but three of those wins came courtesy of Big Buck’s and in truth it’s a race that is equally capable of throwing up a surprise.

This year Paisley Park will go to post as the form horse and hot favourite, but the Stayers’ will still represent the toughest test of his career and no race at the Cheltenham Festival can ever be described as easy-pickings.

The nature of the market means that there’s plenty for each-way punters to get their teeth into as well in what promises to be another fascinating renewal.

Horse profiles

Bacardys (FR)

This horse was in the process of running a lifetime best when coming down at the last flight in the Stayers’ Hurdle last year – having been held up he was challenging for third at the time. However, that really underlines the big worry with him; jumping. He’s fallen in three of his last five starts and that has to be a big worrry. He’s never won outside of novice company either and the chances are that he’s just not quite up to this level.

Video Form
28 Dec 2018:
10 Nov 2018:
26 Apr 2018:
28 Dec 2017:
11 Nov 2017:

Black Op (IRE)

  • 8-y-o; brown gelding
  • Breeding: Sandmason - Afar Story (Desert Story)
  • Trained by: T R George
  • Last Race: Newbury, 29 Nov 2019 14:25
  • Result: 2/6, vying for lead when left in front 1st, went clear 8th until 5 out, joined and hit last, headed and not pace of winner run-in
  • View full form

Second to Samcro in the Ballymore last year, he was sent chasing this season before reverting to hurdles last time when third to Paisley Park over this course and distance in the Cleeve Hurdle. He looked to be going really well turning for home on that occasion but ultimately had no answer to the winner’s surge up the hill and ultimately finished 14 lengths behind him in third place.

That was his first run back from chasing – and often it takes a while for horses to re-adjust to smaller obstacles – so there is scope for improvement but, currently rated 152, he needs to find a huge amount to challenge Paisley Park here. On the plus side he likes the track and looks a stayer so has place claims.

Video Form
9 Jan 2018:
22 Feb 2017:

Faugheen

The horse we once knew as ‘The Machine’ might not be quite the force he was when powering home in the 2015 Champion Hurdle, but he showed that he still possesses some of the magic when beating reigning long-distance champion Penhill over this trip at the Punchestown Festival, after which it always looked as though this race would be his target in 2019.

We’ve seen him twice this year, chasing home Sharjah over a now-inadequate two miles on his return before stepping up to three miles at Leopardstown over Christmas. That outing ended in a crunching fall two out just as he was moving onto Apple’s Jade’s heels and Ruby Walsh had not asked him a single question up to that point.

Off the course since then, the big question is will Willie Mullins have got him to peak at the Festival? If he does he is a danger to all and I for one think there could be a huge performance in him over three miles around a track he loves.

Video Form
28 Dec 2018:
18 Nov 2018:
26 Apr 2018:
3 Feb 2018:
29 Dec 2017:

Kilbricken Storm (IRE)

This horse is a guaranteed stayer having won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2018. He’s another that tried chasing this year, but it didn’t work out and it’s not ideal that he is reverting to hurdles in a championship race as it usually takes a couple of runs to adjust. Connections are will be praying for plenty of rain with him as all his best for has been on soft or heavy.

Video Form
11 Nov 2018:
25 Apr 2018:

Lil Rockerfeller (USA)

If you want a horse at a big price then it has to be Neil King’s popular chestnut. He’s as game as can be and can turn his hooves to anything – he even won at Glorious Goodwood last summer! He won his first three races over fences this season before switching back to hurdles two starts ago, finishing fifth to Paisley Park in the Cleeve before putting up a better performance when third in the National Spirit last time.

It might feel like he’s been around forever but he’s only an eight-year-old and has plenty of class form over hurdles, notably of course when beaten less than a length by Nichols Canyon in this race two years ago. The prospect of fast ground won’t worry his connections and he only needs to step up a little on his recent form to have place claims.

Video Form
23 Nov 2019:
12 Oct 2019:
18 Aug 2019:
24 Feb 2019:
21 Dec 2018:

Paisley Park (IRE)

This division was crying out for a new talent to explode onto the scene and the Emma Lavelle-trained Paisley Park has done just that. After trailing in 13th, beaten 54 lengths, behind Kilbricken Storm in the Albert Bartlett 12 months ago this son of Oscar was beginning to look something of an under-achiever, but fast forward a year and he and his new partner Aidan Coleman have gone from winning an Aintree handicap off 140 to being a red hot favourite for the Stayers’ crown.

He’s 4 from 4 this term and having won the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas before running out a really impressive winner in the Cleeve Hurdle over the Stayers’ Hurdle course and distance in January, scoring by 12 lengths from West Approach.

My one worry with him is that last year’s race was run at a crawl and such a scenario this time might not leave this strong stayer vulnerable to something with a bit more speed, but otherwise he very much looks the one to beat.

Video Form
22 Dec 2018:
8 Feb 2018:
16 Dec 2017:

Samcro

I think there’s a strong chance we’ve overrated Samcro. With the exception of the rapidly-progressive Paisley Park, last season’s novice hurdlers don’t appear to have been that good and I think we all got carried away by the manner of Samcro’s win in the Ballymore. Now officially rated 163, he’ll need to improve but if there is a ray of hope then it’s the trip – three miles should suit him much better.

Video Form
29 Dec 2018:
1 Dec 2018:
2 Nov 2018:
27 Apr 2018:
4 Feb 2018:

Supasundae (GB)

This would be a great horse to own; he’s so consistent and loves Cheltenham having of course won the Coral Cup here a couple of years ago. We saw him at his very best last year when he beat Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle and of course he ran a fine race when second in the Stayers’ Hurdle to Penhill, where his lack of stamina just appeared to find him out.

That’s the concern with him again this year, even with no Penhill in the field; in truth he looks a two and a half miler and he’s still to win at this trip. He’ll be hard to keep out of the frame but I can’t see him winning.

Video Form
29 Dec 2018:
2 Dec 2018:
27 Apr 2018:
3 Feb 2018:
28 Dec 2017:

JOSH’S VERDICT

Stayers’ Hurdle

With the absence of Penhill this race has a worthy favourite in Paisley Park and a reproduction of either of his last two wins would probably see him take this. However, if you are looking for a bet in the race then the best value might be found on the day, when bookmakers will be offering extra places and betting-without-the-favourite markets; that’s when LIL ROCKERFELLER will be an attractive option as he’s going to be among the outsiders yet already has the form in the book to run into a place and to my eyes will be very hard to keep out of the first four.

Previous Winners
Year Going Ran Winner Draw Age Weight OR Form Last run Trainer (Distance) Jockey SP Time
2018 Soft 15 Penhill 7 11 10 - 114112 323 days W P Mullins P Townend 12/1 6:20.40
2017 Good 12 Nichols Canyon 7 11 10 - 33-312F 46 days W P Mullins R Walsh 10/1 5:49.60
2016 Good 12 Thistlecrack 8 11 10 - 51-2111 47 days C Tizzard (83 miles) T Scudamore Evens 5:42.60
2015 Good 16 Cole Harden 6 11 10 - 72-1234 47 days W Greatrex (45 miles) G Sheehan 14/1 5:41.00
2014 Good 10 More Of That 6 11 10 - 1-111 89 days Jonjo O'Neill (1 miles) B J Geraghty 15/2 5:49.50
2013 Good to Soft 13 Solwhit 9 11 10 - 1222-21 54 days C Byrnes Paul Carberry 17/2 6:24.90
2012 Good 11 Big Buck's 9 11 10 - 111-111 47 days P Nicholls (69 miles) R Walsh 5/6 5:44.60
2011 Good 13 Big Buck's 8 11 10 - 1111-11 78 days P Nicholls (69 miles) R Walsh 10/11 5:50.80
2010 Good to Soft 14 Big Buck's 7 11 10 - 1111-11 79 days P Nicholls (69 miles) R Walsh 5/6 5:49.40
2009 Good to Soft 14 Big Buck's 6 11 10 - 371-U11 47 days P Nicholls (69 miles) R Walsh 6/1 5:57.00