With so little form to go by, as none of the first four front-runners are heading to Prestbury Park on the back of a win, those who bet on Cheltenham will be pulling their hair out when scouring the Stayers’ Hurdle’s racecard and trying to pick a winner for the gruelling three-mile contest on St. Patrick’s Day. So, to help try and make your selection that bit easier, let’s take more of an in-depth look at some of the favourites.
Flooring Porter – 7/2
Arguably the favourite more on the basis that he is the defending champion more than anything else, Flooring Porter caused an upset when he beat Sire Du Berlais by over three lengths to win the Stayers’ Hurdle from 12/1 last year. However, the seven-year-old is yet to pick up a win this season — falling on his reappearance at Navan in November before finishing second in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 28th, two lengths behind Klassical Dream. The bookmakers seem to be refusing to look beyond his win last March though, taking no chances by keeping him as the market leader.
Klassical Dream – 4/1
It’s hard to believe that Willie Mullins has racked up an incredible 78 Cheltenham Festival winners as a trainer, yet not one of those victories has come in the Stayers’ Hurdle. His best chance of ending that duck this year lies with Klassical Dream.
The eight-year-old returned from a lengthy 487-day break to win at Punchestown in his only race of the 2020-21 season last April and he won again on his 2021-22 reappearance — beating Flooring Porter in that aforementioned Christmas Hurdle. Four last time out in January, Mullins will be hoping that a longer break will have helped recharge his batteries.
Thyme Hill – 4/1
Another horse yet to gain entry to the winner’s enclosure thus far this season, Thyme Hill is the joint second favourite with Klassical Dream at 4/1. The Philip Hobbs-trained horse kept us on the edge of our seats last season in that thrilling rivalry with Paisley Park, which he wound up winning 2-1.
Despite that victory, he’s flattered to deceive for the most part this campaign, finishing fifth in a trip to France for the Grade 1 Grand Prix d’Automne in November before coming second to Champ in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December. The eight-year-old is going to have to find something extra to give if he is to win this race.
Champ – 9/2
Just half a point adrift from the second favourites, the Nicky Henderson-trained Champ comes into the ante-post market at 9/2. His win in the 2020 RSA Novices’ Chase was a memorable one, with AP McCoy watching on at Prestbury Park as a horse named in his honour won one of the Grade 1s. But he hasn’t exactly hit the heights expected of him since — most notably pulling up in last year’s Gold Cup. Yes, he won the aforementioned Long Walk Hurdle, which was his fourth career win at the top-level, but he was second to Paisley Park last time out at Cheltenham for a Grade 2 hurdle.
With Paisley Park (3331) further adrift at 6/1, this is a market of horses who have been rather hit and miss in recent time, but at one point or another have proven they can beat one of their rivals. It really could go either way!