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Rising star Sam Spinner headlines 38 entries for the G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle, with boosted prize money of £325,000, over three miles at Cheltenham on the third day of The Festival, St Patrick's Thursday, March 15.
Sam Spinner (Jedd O'Keeffe), the 7/2 second favourite with Sun Bets, propelled himself into the reckoning for the staying hurdling highlight by making all for a relentless two and three-quarter length victory in the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 23.
The unexposed six-year-old, who has won five of his seven starts over hurdles, demolished rivals in the same style in the valuable G3 Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park in November.
There is a strong Irish-trained contingent - 16 entries in total - headed by last season's G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle winner Apple's Jade (Gordon Elliott, 3/1 favourite with Sun Bets) and Coral Cup victor Supasundae (Jessica Harrington, 5/1), who were first and second in the three-mile G1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle was one of four races Willie Mullins annexed on St Patrick's Thursday in 2017. Ireland's champion Jump trainer has eight 2018 entries to choose from including 2017 G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle hero Penhill (9/1) and Let's Dance (14/1), winner of the G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle on this card last year. Faugheen (8/1) and Barcardys (10/1)are also engaged.
Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have two entries - G1 French Champion Hurdle victor L'Ami Serge (Nicky Henderson, 12/1) and Cheltenham specialist Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 12/1).
Former Willie Mullins-trained runner Diakali (33/1)has been handed an entry by his new trainer Gary Moore. A dual G1 winner as a four-year-old at Punchestown and Auteuil in 2013, Diakali was also a close third behind The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 12/1) in the 2014 G1 Aintree Hurdle.
Diakali did not race for almost two years because of injury, but looked to retain plenty of ability on his final start for Mullins when taking a two-mile conditions hurdle by 20 lengths at Fairyhouse in April.
Sussex-based Moore said of the nine-year-old: "Diakali is a bit of a character and has been with me for about three months now.
"He was a class horse when Willie Mullins trained him, although whether he will be now is a different matter.
"In the mornings, he is still showing plenty of ability and enthusiasm for the job and, at the moment, I am very happy with him.
"The plan is for him to run at Sandown on February 3 or if he doesn't go there, he will go straight to the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on February 25.
"The Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle entry looks ambitious, but it is an open division and his first run should tell us more about the horse."
Finian's Oscar (Colin Tizzard, 8/1), Yanworth (Alan King, 9/1) and Willoughby Court (Ben Pauling, 20/1) have been plying their trade in novices' chases so far this season. All three horses were successful at the top level over hurdles last season.
Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry, 11/1) finished third in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle last year before turning the tables on winner Nichols Canyon at Punchestown. He has met with defeat in two of his three starts this season, including behind 40/1 shock winner Beer Goggles (Richard Woollacott, 14/1) in the G2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Last year's runner-up Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King, 16/1), successful in the G2 Ascot Hurdle in November, and The Worlds End (Tom George, 16/1), a G1-winning novice at Aintree last season, are also engaged.
Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle - Sun Bets prices:
3/1 Apple's Jade; 7/2 Sam Spinner; 5/1 Supasundae; 8/1 Faugheen, Finian's Oscar, Monalee, Penhill; 9/1 Yanworth; 10/1 Bacardys; 11/1 Unowhatimeanharry; 12/1 L'Ami Serge, The New One, Wholestone; 14/1 Beer Goggles, Let's Dance; 16/1 Lil Rockerfeller, The Worlds End; 20/1 Barters Hill, La Bague Au Roi, Renneti, Shaneshill, The Last Samuri, Willoughby Court; 25/1 Augusta Kate, Colin's Sister, Jer's Girl, Knight Of Noir, Old Guard, Prince Of Scars, Thomas Campbell; 33/1 Ballyoptic, Bapaume, Cole Harden, Diakali, Hammersly Lake, Lieutenant Colonel, Mala Beach; 40/1 Ex Patriot
Each Way 1/5 odds, 1-2-3, NRNB
OLBG Mares' Hurdle attracts 33 entries
Apple's Jade (Gordon Elliott) and Vroum Vroum Mag (Willie Mullins) could renew rivalry in the G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle over two and a half miles at Cheltenham on Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13. Prize money has been boosted to £120,000 this year.
They were first and second last year as Apple's Jade came out on top by a length and a half in what was one of the races of The Festival.
Willie Mullins also has Augusta Kate, Let's Dance and highly-regarded chaser Benie Des Dieux among his nine-strong team as he chases an amazing ninth victory in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, which was founded in 2008.
The 33 entries also feature multiple G2 winner Colin's Sister (Fergal O'Brien), Dusky Legend (Alan King), who has been placed in the last two renewals of the G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at The Festival, and La Bague Au Roi (Warren Greatrex), successful on six of her eight hurdle starts.