Last year’s race
- Winner: Nichols Canyon
- Jockey: R Walsh
- Trainer: W P Mullins
- Owner: Andrea & Graham Wylie
- Age: 7 Weight: 11st 10lb
- Starting Price: 10/1
- Season Form Figures: 12F
- Previous Best: 3rd - Champion Hurdle (Grade 1), Cheltenham Festival (March 2016)
Very sadly last year’s winner Nichols Canyon won’t be able to defend his title. It was a much needed win in the race for the Irish as, despite having won over one-third of the first 24 runnings since the Stayers’ Hurdle was first run at the Festival in 1972, just one win since Dorans Pride took the 1995 running had been an awful and surprising run. Not that they had been short on runners-up; Alpha Des Obeaux, Annie Power, Limestone Lad, Bannow Bay, Le Coudray, Golden Cross and Voler La Vedette. Five of the last seven Irish-trained winners prepped in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February.
Backing the defending title holder, whose record reads 101211114 since 1998 or second-season hurdlers that have won on 13 other occasions during that time period, has been the way to go. Regards second-season hurdlers, they supplied three 1-2s between 1990-1998 but we had to wait for 16 years until for the next occasion when the previous campaign’s novices fought out the finish and, for good measure they recorded a 1-2-3.
Three years ago a horse that failed to start in the first four in the betting took the spoils when Cole Harden won at 14/1. That is the only occasion in the last 17 years when that has been the case. It’s not just the winners that are well fancied either as eight of the last 14 runnings have witnessed the first five in the betting provide the 1-2-3.
Cole Harden also became the first horse to even place that had tried to make all the running since 1996, let alone win it and, to top it off, also defied the last-time-out stats having finished unplaced in his prep race whereas nine of the previous ten winners won last time out.
Just under 50% of Stayers’ Hurdle winners and runners-up combined (10-22) have prepped in the Cleeve Hurdle in the last 11 years.
The Cleeve Hurdle has been the key recent guide since it was upped from 2m5f to 3m in 2005 so the only real difference between the two races now is that there is a penalty structure in place for the Cleeve as they are also both run on the New Course. Just under 50% of Stayers’ Hurdle winners and runners-up combined (10-22) have prepped in that race in the last 11 years.
Numerically speaking, the best guide in the last 13 years has been the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury at the Hennessy Meeting won by Beer Goggles, though Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s, who won seven staying hurdle crowns between them, were responsible for the lion’s share. That said, two of the last three Stayers’ Hurdle winners, Cole Harden and Thistlecrack, finished second and first respectively in that Grade 2 race at Newbury.
The last winner to run in the previous season’s Stayers’ Hurdle that failed to occupy one of the top two positions was Derring Rose back in 1981, and he finished third 12 months earlier, so Unowhatimeanharry will be attempting to emulate him.
After four unsuccessful cracks at the Champion Hurdle, The New One will now take his chance in the Stayers’ Hurdle. In the past I have highlighted the fact that horses stepping up to 3m for the first time here, and especially those having contested the Champion Hurdle earlier in their career, had a poor record. That came to an end when the previously-unbeaten duo of More Of That and Annie Power emulated two very different horses in the firmly-established pair of Solwhit and Celestial Halo 12 months earlier by dominating the finish. Prior to Solwhit’s victory, the previous time a former runner in the Champion Hurdle won the World Hurdle was Nomadic Way in 1992.
The New One is now aged ten and the only Stayers’ Hurdle winner to be aged in double figures was Crimson Embers who caused a mini surprise at 12/1 when successful at the age of 11 in 1986, by 15 lengths no less. It was a very different race back then though taking 45 seconds longer to run. At the other end of the age scale, no five-year-old has won the Stayers’ Hurdle since it was introduced into the Festival.
One or both of La Bague Au Roi or Apple’s Jade could take their chance here rather than contest the Stayers’ Hurdle. We should also consider the record of mares in the Stayers’ Hurdle as they are few and far between and I’d say that they have over-performed in general. Annie Power became the fourth mare since 1996 to fill the runner-up berth in 2014 following Naevog, Mysilv and Voler La Vedette. The two successful mares were Rose Ravine (1985) and Shuil Ar Aghaidh (1993).
At a glance summary
- Second-season hurdler
- Ran in the Cleeve Hurdle or Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury
- Won last time out
- & aged 10+
- Outside of the first four in the betting
- Unplaced in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle
- Failed to register a top-two place last time out