The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+) 

3:30 Cheltenham  Thursday 15 Mar 2018 

3m (2m7f213y) (New Course)

Despite some describing this as a weak race, with £185,088 to the winner of the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival, this promises to be one of the most fiercely contested races of the entire Festival and it would be no surprise to see a good few more than a dozen runners go to post.

There are 12 hurdles to be jumped on the New Course, where surely the flat, bred horses will have their supporters with only 2 hurdles to negotiate in the last 6 Furlongs!

The race has been a good one for Punters with The Favourite obliging on 7 occasions in the last 10 years.

There was a period when 2 horses dominated ie Inglis Drever won in consecutive seasons (2007-08) followed by 4 on the bounce for Big Bucks (2009-12) but the last 5 runnings have seen 5 different winners from 5 different yards.

Below I have tried to narrow down some of the likely contenders who I would expect to be fighting out the finish of this year’s highly competitive renewal.

SUPASUNDAE-Jessica Harrington Rated 163

Sire Galileo (IRE) (11.2f)

Dam Distinctive Look (IRE)

Dam’s Sire Danehill (USA) (9.2f)

Supasundae has been in really good form. He has looked a better horse than he was last year. He has given the impression of travelling really well into his races and he has jumped more fluently than he did last season! His Trainer Jessica Harrington appears confident he will stay, although she has admitted a slight concern should the ground be on the slow side. Over 3m on Soft ground at Leopardstown, he was off the bridle a fair way out but just kept finding and as others floundered it was only Apples Jade who finally picked him off in the shadow of the winning post. There should be no Apples Jade to contend with this time! The manner in which he ran down Faugheen (over 2m in Soft Ground) in the Irish Champion Hurdle, gave the look of a smart horse and it may be a clever race placement by his Trainer by running over the shorter trip with 40 days to the Festival.

Jessica Harrington stated…. “I’d be hopeful that he can reverse form with Yanworth. When he went to Aintree last season it was after having some hard races and a tough schedule. I think he was just a tired horse and did well to run as well as he did. One thing I’m looking forward to with him at Cheltenham is not having to make the running or be very handy as he has been in his last two starts, as I don’t think that really suits him. He dosses and makes it hard work for himself when he’s in front.”


SAM SPINNER-Jedd O’Keefe Rated 164

Sire Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) (13.5f)

Dam Dawn Spinner (GB)

Dam’s Sire Arctic Lord (IRE) (11.7f)

Sam Spinner only cost 12,000 Guineas as a 3 year old at the Doncaster Sales and began the season with a rating of 136! He was rated 155 by the time he won The Long Walk at Ascot where he had the 167 rated Unowhatimeanharry back in 3rd, off level weights. It was L’Ami Serge who emerged as the main danger at Ascot as he came into contention swinging off the bridle but Sam Spinner kept finding and L’Ami Serge could not get to the winner.

For Sam Spinner this was a marked step up in class after success in a handicap at Haydock the time before where he prevailed over a strong field in the hands of Joe Colliver. What is intriguing for me, therefore, is the fact Sam Spinner was only a 5 year old when winning Ascot’s Grade One Staying contest so it is reasonable to assume he continues to improve throughout the season as he grows stronger by the day.

This was Northern Trainer Jedd O’Keeffe’s first Grade One win in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. He almost quit training altogether after he was diagnosed with Cancer back in 2011!

Sam Spinner put 11 lengths between himself and the 4th placed The Worlds End who looked to be going extremely well in last years Albert Bartlett before falling 2 out! This certainly puts Sam Spinner’s chances into context!

BEST PRICED 9/2 GENERALLY (Time Of Writing) 

YANWORTH-Alan King Rated 163

Sire Norse Dancer (IRE) (10.1f)

Dam Yota (FR)

Dam’s Sire Galetto (FR) (13.2f)

Poor old Yanworth was always seen as a future, staying chaser, with a high class hurdling campaign to gain some experience.

Following a runner’s up spot, in The Neptune Novices Hurdle to Yorkhill, he went on, the following season, to win The Ascot Hurdle and The Christmas Hurdle, so inevitably The main aim for that season was The Champion Hurdle. Connections were disappointed with his well beaten 7th/11 runners and subsequent Disqualification for a banned substance and decided to send him Novice Chasing after he bounced back to form by defeating Supasundae over 3m at Aintree in The Liverpool Hurdle.

Having run 3 times over fences since, that idea has now been aborted and he is now an intended runner in The Stayers!

Have they finally found the key to him or is Yanworth going to continue to be the proverbial ‘Bridesmaid’ in The Championship Races? Certainly he has the stamina and his chasing experience ought to stand to him over hurdles where he always tended to make the odd mistake, which you simply can’t do at the highest level.

5/1 GENERALLY (Time Of Writing)

PENHILL-W P Mullins Rated 150

Sire Mount Nelson (GB) (9.9f)

Dam Serrenia (IRE)

Dam’s Sire High Chaparral (IRE) (10.7f)

Penhill is a real flat bred individual who came from last to first to win last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle over Course and Distance in great style. I imagine this has been the plan since then, despite The Stable tragically losing the Ante Post Favourite for the race, Nichols Canyon.

Since leaving Luca Cumani to join W P Mullins, in April 2016, Penhill has only seen the racecourse on 9 occasions! After a couple of outings at a time he has been given breaks of 179, 53, 63, 78 and now 323 days. It could be a big ask to put his match day fitness to the test in a race of this nature, although nothing would be beyond the realms of possibility given his Trainer is none other than Willie Mullins.

There have been suggestions Penhill will not like the ground but connections thought the precise opposite when running on the flat…..

” His best performance last year was at Ripon where the ground was bottomless. He is very effective on that surface and this was the quickest he has run on. His races will be ground dependent” – Sean Graham, representing owner Tony Bloom. (9th May 2015) following a run at Ascot over 1m 4f.

Ruby Walsh will probably have the choice of Penhill, Bacardys, Augusta Kate and Let’s Dance who may all line up here. Whichever he rides, one can be sure they won’t be far off the placings at the very least.

“It will be a big ask for Penhill, who hasn’t run since winning the Albert Bartlett a year ago. He met with a setback when we were training him for Royal Ascot but he’s in very good form. We’re hoping for a big run but it will be a tough call without a prep run.” W P Mullins

8/1 GENERALLY (Time Of Writing)

BACARDYS-W P Mullins Rated 151 (*Unexposed over 3m)

Sire Coastal Path (GB)

Dam Oasice (FR)

Dam’s Sire Robin Des Champs (FR)

I’ve always loved this horse and had it in the back of my mind he’ll one day win a Championship Race at The Festival.

I think he’s as tough as they come and Willie Mullins has gone on record to say he is running him in this race as he wants to preserve his Novice status over Fences until next year.

He is a 3 mile Pt-Pt winner, ran 3rd in The 2016 Champion Bumper and was badly hampered in last year’s Neptune. I feel he is real dark one for this race as he’s been crying out for 3 miles. At this stage of his career, similarly to Yanworth, his experience having run in a couple of Novice Chases should help him over the smaller obstacles. I can see him staying on from the rear late on but have it in the back of my mind whether the New Course will suit him ideally.

12/1 GENERALLY (Time Of Writing)

L’AMI SERGE-Nicky Henderson Rated 159

Sire King’s Theatre (IRE) (11.5f)

Dam La Zingarella (IRE)

Dam’s Sire Phardante (FR) (12.7f)

Following a Runner’s Up spot behind Shaneshill in The (Grade 2) Prix La Barka, L’Ami Serge was stepped up to 3m 1 ½ f for the 1st time in The French Champion Hurdle, where he reversed the form with Shaneshill (3rd) to take the honours. Not long after Nicky Henderson indicated L’Ami Serge would have to go for The Stayers Hurdle at The Festival and as we understand it he is an intended runner.

As stated previously he came swinging off the bridle as he closed in on Sam Spinner in the Long Walk at Ascot but Sam Spinner proved too tough to pass. Since then he has been tried in The Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster where they were hoping to cash in on a 7lb lower Chase mark and he did look an unlucky loser. I think he’s one of those horses who has to be produced just right and Daryl Jacob has enough experience of riding the horse, to get things right on the big day….

” We’ve seen many times this year that you can produce him too soon, too late, too this, too that, but he was going that well they weren’t going to get to him, and this time he kept galloping” – Nicky Henderson, Trainer, following a Grade 2 Hurdle win at Sandown at the backend of April 2017

The extra 1 1/2f at Auteuil in ground described as Very Soft proves beyond doubt he stays the trip and it would be no surprise to see him cantering upsides as they approach the last. Will he go past though?

12/1 GENERALLY (Time Of Writing)

THE NEW ONE- Nigel Twiston-Davies Rated 161

Sire King’s Theatre (IRE) (11.5f)

Dam Thuringe (FR)

Dam’s Sire Turgeon (USA) (10.4f)

I’m sure if This horse wins The Stayers, The Unsaddling enclosure will erupt!

Despite running 36 times, more often than not, at the highest level and having announced himself on the big stage when winning the 2013 running of The Neptune Novices hurdle over 2m 5f, I am amazed this is his first try at 3m! Now as a 10 year old they decide to start experimenting!

Connections are adamant he still has that spark and his 161 Rating entitles him to be there, despite the fact one would have to go back as far as 1986 when a horse with double digits to his age won this race (Crimson Embers 11 Year Old) and before that 1926 & 1927 when successive winners were aged 11 years and 13 years!

12/1 GENERALLY (Time Of Writing)


Sire Sir Harry Lewis (USA) (14.8f)

Dam Red Nose Lady (GB)

Dam’s Sire Teenoso (USA) (10.7f)

Similar comments apply to Unowhatimeanharry, who is a 10 year old but by no means out of it with a Rating of 163

12/1 GENERALLY (Time Of Writing)

I find it a very competitive race and I am finding it very hard to nail one down but at this stage I am leaning towards SUPERSUNDAE given his flat pedigree combined with the new course and less hurdles to jump in the Straight.

I hope you all have a great Cheltenham Festival and plenty of winners.

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