Did you know that in terms of betting, the Stayers Hurdle is the second most popular Cheltenham Festival race to bet on? No prizes for guessing the most popular is the Gold Cup. But with so many fantastic races, I wouldn’t have guessed the Stayers Hurdle garnered such a huge amount of interest. Then again it is the race Big Bucks won four times!
The name of the race has undergone a few changes over the years. In 2005 Ladbrokes took sponsorship of the race and named it the World Hurdle. This new name only last until 2017 when Sun Bet sponsored it and reverted it back to the Stayers’ Hurdle although to many fans it is still known by its previous name. Paddy Power took over sponsorship in 2020 and kept the ‘Stayers Hurdle’ title.
Typically the winner of the Stayers Hurdle goes off on very short odds. Big Bucks was the odds on favourite three years in a row. More recently Thistlecrack went off on evens in 2016 with Paisley Park going off as the favourite on odds of 11/8F in 2019.
Paisley Park was the favourite again in 2020 but the Rebecca Curtis trained Lisnagar Oscar spoiled the party. The 50/1 outsider surprised everybody by staying on strongly as Paisley Park languished in 7th place.
So with a brand new National Hunt season underway, which of the potential 2021 Stayers Hurdler contenders are actually in with a chance?
2021 Stayers Hurdle Contenders
Once again the ante-post odds have Paisley Park as the favourite on 5/1. With no explanation for the poor performance in 2020, the general thinking is that it was simply a blip. If that is the case, given his near impeccable track record, it tracks that he would be the current antepost favourite.
However, it won’t be a straight forward race. Also in the mix are Benie Des Bieux and Honeysuckle, two mares that have gone head to head before. Neither have previously taken their chances in the Stayers Hurdle, opting for the Mares Hurdle instead, which Honeysuckle won in 2020.
Will connections opt for the longer but more lucrative Stayers Hurdle or will they stick with the tried and tested Mares Hurdle in 2021? Very short ante-post odds for the Mares Hurdle would suggest the latter.
That would leave Sire Du Berlais as the next biggest challenger. Trained by Gordon Elliott and owned by JP McManus, the 8-year-old won the Pertemps Hurdle at the Festival earlier this year. Boosting his claims he also ran a great race at Navan in November, narrowly beating French Dynamite by half a length.
If his good form continues he could be a serious contender for 2021 the Stayers Hurdle.
Prep Season Continues
2020 has been a difficult year for the racing industry. While racing is back on track, albeit behind closed doors, quite a few of the main players have yet to make their seasonal debut.
Thankfully the big meetings at the likes of Cheltenham and Fairyhouse are getting underway and as the months roll by more and more big races will test the Cheltenham Festival hopefuls.
That said, the November meeting in Cheltenham didn’t attract some of those expected to run in the March festival. But with a packed schedule at Haydock, Newcastle, and Ascot over the next few months, we should be seeing some of the major contenders very soon.