The early favourites for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle
The Cheltenham Festival is now just a matter of months away, and as the iconic meeting edges ever closer, punters are already starting to study the form guides, examine the odds and are undoubtedly on the lookout for the best Cheltenham offers.
Amongst the 15 Grade 1 races, there are a handful of standout encounters, including the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. The long-distance race, which is ran over a gruelling three miles, is the feature on the penultimate day of the meeting. So, with that in mind, let’s take an in-depth look at some of the early favourites.
Paisley Park – 10/3*
After his bitterly disappointing performance in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle, Paisley Park is expected to have another attempt at the race in the upcoming festival. In 2019, the Emma Lavelle-trained horse, who was the 11/8 favourite, won the race by almost three lengths over Sam Spinner. However, last year, despite waiting for Starter’s Orders as the 4/6F, Paisley Park put on a disappointing display, finishing in seventh place, much to the disbelief of his trainer who had had no explanation for the poor performance. This year, the eight-year-old is the favourite again, and Lavelle will be hoping for a much better showing.
Thyme Hill – 7/2*
Second favourite Thyme Hill, who missed out on the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December to Paisley Park by just a neck, is yet to land a win at the Cheltenham Festival, but third time could be the charm for trainer Phillip Hobbs. The six-year-old’s first outing at the meeting was in 2019, when he competed in the Champion Bumper, where he finished third despite being a 20/1 outsider. Last year, much more was expected of Thyme Hill in the Novices’ Hurdle, as he was the 4/1 favourite. However, in a closely run encounter, where just one and half lengths separated first from fourth, Thyme Hill was slightly off the pace set by Monkfish and could do no better than fourth.
Sire Du Berlais – 6/1*
Sire Du Berlais is Gordon Elliott’s best shot of winning his first Stayers’ Hurdle, and the eight-year-old has been pretty impressive at Cheltenham over the course of the last two years. In 2019, the JP McManus-owned gelding won the Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle as the 4/1F, and last year, despite moving out to 10/1, he made it back-to-back victories in the race. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if he can step up to the standards required to compete at Grade 1 level.
Benie Des Dieux – 8/1
Of course, it wouldn’t be one of the top races of the meeting without Elliott and Willie Mullins both having entries, and Benie Des Dieux boasts the latter’s best chance of victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle. However, since her victory in the Mares’ Hurdle back in 2018, the nine-year-old hasn’t had the best of luck at Cheltenham. In 2019, Benie Des Dieux was odds-on to land successive wins in the Mares’ Hurdle, but, three lengths clear of the rest of the pack, she agonisingly fell at the last jump. Attempting to win back her Mares’ Hurdle crown last year, she was denied by Honeysuckle, who won by just half a length over the Mullins-trained mare.