history of The Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle Race
The Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle is the most prestigious long-distance hurdle race in the calendar. It was introduced to The Festival™ in 1972 when it replaced the Spa Hurdle and was initially known as the Lloyds Bank Stayers’ Hurdle.
Originally held on Tuesday or Wednesday until it was switched to the Thursday in 1993, the inaugural race was won by Parlour Moor who was trained by Harry Thomson Jones and ridden by Macer Gifford.
Tommy Carberry steered Brown Lad to victory in 1975 for trainer Jim Dreaper before becoming the first jockey to win the race twice when partnering the Peter Easterby-trained Town Ship to victory in 1977.
In 1982 Crimson Embers gave Fulke Walwyn his first of three Stayers’ Hurdle successes when partnered by Stuart Shilston and the trio combined again four years later when Crimson Embers became the first horse to regain the title and at eleven,
the oldest winner of the race. Galmoy became the first horse to win back-to-back renewals in 1987 and 1988 for trainer John Mulhern and jockey Tommy Carmody. The Barry Hills-trained Nomadic Way was equally at home racing on the level or over hurdles and in 1992 won the Stayers’ Hurdle with those famous Sangster colours carried by Jamie Osborne.
Martin Pipe recorded the first of two Stayers’ Hurdle successes in 1994 when Balasani held off all challengers under Mark Perrett and two years later Cyborgo followed suit when ridden by David Bridgwater.
Multiple winners were aplenty in the 2000s. The French raider Baracouda set the trend when winning in the famous silks of J. P. McManus in 2002 and 2003 for Francois and Thierry Doumen.
2005 proved a landmark year for more than one reason. The title of the race was changed to the World Hurdle when Ladbrokes took over the sponsorship and it also saw the emergence of one of the best-known names associated with the race.
The Howard Johnson-trained Inglis Drever dominated the race during the mid-part of the decade winning three times in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Graham Lee did the steering for his first success whilst Paddy Brennan took over for his second success and Denis O’Regan for the third, meaning that Inglis Drever is the only multiple winner in the race’s history to be ridden by three different jockeys.
Prior to 2009 Paul Nicholls had been out of luck in the Stayers’ Hurdle but one horse stepped forward to change all that. Big Buck’s hadn’t looked anything out of the ordinary in his native France, winning twice from 13 starts, but in the hands of Nicholls he blossomed into the best hurdler of his generation and arguably the best we have ever seen.
The 2009 Festival™ provided the springboard to a career that saw him win back-to-back Stayers’ Hurdles from 2009 to 2012 under the tutorage of Ruby Walsh. In fact, from January 2009 to December 2012 the stylish hurdler went a total of 18 races unbeaten.
In four short years, Big Buck’s, Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh became the most successful horse, trainer and jockey in the race’s history. Injury prevented the superstar defending his title in 2013 when the Charles Byrnes-trained Solwhit took full advantage under Paul Carberry – 36 years after his father had won with Town Ship.
With Sun Racing taking over the sponsorship in 2017 and changing the race title back to the Stayers’ Hurdle, the final World Hurdle saw Colin Tizzard’s brilliant hurdler Thistlecrack land the spoils, stretching clear up the famous Cheltenham hill to win by seven lengths at the line.
The inaugural Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle saw trainer Willie Mullins gain a first success in the 3m prize with Nichols Canyon and Mullins was back in the Winner’s Enclosure twelve months later with Penhill.
Owner Andrew Gemmell was all smiles in the winner's enclosure after Paisley Park justified 11/8 favouritism to land the G1 Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle in 2019.
Who will be crowned The Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle winner at The Festival™ presented by Magners 2020? Book your tickets now for Day Three to find out and join us on Thursday 12th March 2020.