Today sees the unveiling of entries for two further G1 contests at The Festival™ – the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (2m 4f, Tuesday, 16 March, 26 entries) and the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (3m, Thursday, 18 March, 51 entries).
Sponsor Paddy Power has Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle), the 2019 hero, as 3/1 favourite for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, closely followed by Thyme Hill (Philip Hobbs) on 7/2. The two market leaders have met twice so far this season with the score currently standing at one all. On 27 November at Newbury, it was Thyme Hill who came out on top by a length and a half in the G2 Long Distance Hurdle but next time out it was Paisley Park who prevailed, scoring by a neck in Ascot’s G1 Long Walk Hurdle on 19 December. Paisley Park has the upper hand on official BHA ratings, being assessed at 165 compared to 162 for Thyme Hill.
The runner-up to Paisley Park in 2019 was Sam Spinner (Jedd O’Keeffe), who went down by two and three-quarter lengths. The nine-year-old won all three of his outings in novices’ chases before sustaining a fractured pelvis. He has not looked at his best in two outings so far this season, but trainer Jedd O’Keeffe believes there were valid reasons for this.
North Yorkshire-based O’Keeffe said: “Sam Spinner is fine at home and the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle is a definite target for him.
“He has had a little bit of time off after his run at Newbury as an old foot injury has flared up again.
“Due to that injury, the plan is to stay over hurdles this season and so the Stayers’ Hurdle will be his main spring target.
“I think we are going to struggle to get a run into him before the race, so he will be going to Cheltenham fresh.
“The Rendlesham was something we were thinking about, but I think it might just come too soon.
“He is a very talented horse, and he has obviously run well in the race before. Sam Spinner was fifth in 2018 and then a good second to Paisley Park in 2019.
“He obviously would have to reverse form with Paisley Park and now there is also Thyme Hill thrown into the mix.
“But he has solid form at Cheltenham, so hopefully he can get there in one piece.”
Lisnagar Oscar (Rebecca Curtis) caused a 50/1 shock in the 2020 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle and he is entered once again along with last year’s runner-up Ronald Pump (Matthew Smith) and third Bacardys (Willie Mullins).
Ronald Pump and Bacardys are two of the 20 Irish-trained entries. There have been 12 Irish-trained winners of the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. Also prominent in the Irish-trained contingent is Benie Des Dieux (Willie Mullins), winner of the G1 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle in 2018 and runner-up in the same contest last year plus Sire du Berlais (Gordon Elliott), successful in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at The Festival™ last season. Sire du Berlais was last seen when third behind Flooring Porter (Gavin Cromwell) and The Storyteller (Gordon Elliott) in the G1 Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle on 28 December.
There is one entry from France in Paul’s Saga (David Cottin). The seven-year-old mare landed the G1 Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil, the French Champion Hurdle, in October.
Interestingly, Nicky Henderson has given the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle as an option for Champ, last season’s G1 Festival Novices’ Chase hero who also holds an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The 11-times champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls has the best record of any trainer in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, thanks to four-time winner Big Buck’s. His two entries in 2021 are recent G2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle scorer McFabulous and Next Destination, runner-up to Roksana (Dan Skelton), the 2019 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle heroine, in a G2 contest at Wetherby in October.
Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle
Paddy Power: 3/1 Paisley Park; 7/2 Thyme Hill; 5/1 Champ; 7/1 Benie Des Dieux; 10/1 Sire du Berlais; 12/1 Fury Road, McFabulous; 14/1 Flooring Porter, Roksana; 16/1 If The Cap Fits, Next Destination, Pauls Saga, Ronald Pump; 20/1 Great White Shark, The Storyteller, Thomas Darby, Vinndication; 25/1 Beacon Edge, City Island, Dame De Compagnie, Emitom, Kemboy, Lisnagar Oscar, Summerville Boy; 33/1 Diol Ker, French Dynamite, Honest Vic, Itchy Feet, Kalashnikov, Main Fact, Sixshooter; 40/1 Bachasson, Bapaume, Commander Of Fleet, Lil Rockerfeller, Sam Spinner; 50/1 Bacardys, Call Me Lord, Reserve Tank; 66/1 Décor Irlandais, Imperial Alcazar, Sams Profile, The Mighty Don, Tobefair, Vision Des Flos, Younevercall; 100/1 Ask Dillon, Captain Zebo, Donnas Diamond, Heaven Help Us, Jacamar
Paddy Power himself said: “The staying hurdling division has arguably the greatest rivalry in Jumps racing at present between former champ Paisley Park and young pretender Thyme Hill. It’s one all so far this season and while there’s a possibility they could lock horns again in the Cleeve Hurdle, Philip Hobbs has indicated the latter will probably go straight for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle when the argument can be settled once and for all.”
There is a scratchings deadline for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle on 9 February, with the six-day confirmation stage and supplementary entry stage following on 12 March.
PADDY POWER STAYERS' HURDLE (Grade 1)
- Ask Dillon (IRE) 8 11 10 4 The Fun Partnership Fergal O'Brien
- Bacardys (FR) 10 11 10 Shanakiel Racing Syndicate W. P. Mullins IRE
- Bachasson (FR) 10 11 10 E. O'Connell W. P. Mullins IRE
- Bapaume (FR) 8 11 10 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins IRE
- Beacon Edge (IRE) 7 11 10 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
- Call Me Lord (FR) 8 11 10 Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Nicky Henderson
- Captain Zebo (IRE) 9 11 10 Mrs S. F. Dixon John Dixon
- Champ (IRE) 9 11 10 Mr John P. McManus Nicky Henderson
- City Island (IRE) 8 11 10 Sean & Bernardine Mulryan Martin Brassil IRE
- Commander of Fleet (IRE) 7 11 10 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
- Decor Irlandais (FR) 8 11 10 Mr John Devine Noel C. Kelly IRE
- Diol Ker (FR) 7 11 10 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
- Donna's Diamond (IRE) 12 11 10 D&D Armstrong Ltd Chris Grant
- Emitom (IRE) 7 11 10 The Spero Partnership Ltd Warren Greatrex
- Flooring Porter (IRE) 6 11 10 Flooring Porter Syndicate Gavin Cromwell IRE
- French Dynamite (FR) 6 11 10 Robcour M. F. Morris IRE
- Fury Road (IRE) 7 11 10 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
- Honest Vic (IRE) 8 11 10 Carole Daly & Partners Henry Daly
- If The Cap Fits (IRE) 9 11 10 Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Harry Fry
- Imperial Alcazar (IRE) 7 11 10 Imperial Racing Partnership 2016 Fergal O'Brien
- Itchy Feet (FR) 7 11 10 Kate & Andrew Brooks Olly Murphy
- Jacamar (GER) 6 11 10 Pegasus Bloodstock Limited Milton Harris
- Kalashnikov (IRE) 8 11 10 Mr Paul Murphy Amy Murphy
- Kemboy (FR) 9 11 10 Kemboy/Brett Graham/Ken Sharp Syndicate W. P. Mullins IRE
- Lil Rockerfeller (USA) 10 11 10 Davies Smith Govier & Brown Neil King
- Lisnagar Oscar (IRE) 8 11 10 Racing for Fun Rebecca Curtis
- Main Fact (USA) 8 11 10 Munrowd's Partnership David Pipe
- McFabulous (IRE) 7 11 10 Giraffa Racing Paul Nicholls
- Next Destination (IRE) 9 11 10 Mr Malcolm C. Denmark Paul Nicholls
- Paisley Park (IRE) 9 11 10 Mr Andrew Gemmell Emma Lavelle
- Reserve Tank (IRE) 7 11 10 The Reserve Tankers Colin Tizzard
- Ronald Pump (GB) 8 11 10 Laois Limerick Syndicate Matthew J. Smith IRE
- Sam Spinner (GB) 9 11 10 Caron & Paul Chapman Jedd O'Keeffe
- Sams Profile (GB) 7 11 10 Michael O'Flynn/John F O'Flynn M. F. Morris IRE
- Sire du Berlais (FR) 9 11 10 Mr John P. McManus Gordon Elliott IRE
- Sixshooter (IRE) 6 11 10 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
- Summerville Boy (IRE) 9 11 10 Mr R. S. Brookhouse Tom George
- The Mighty Don (IRE) 9 11 10 Golden Rose Partnership Nick Gifford
- The Storyteller (IRE) 10 11 10 Mrs Pat Sloan Gordon Elliott IRE
- Thomas Darby (IRE) 8 11 10 Mrs Diana L. Whateley Olly Murphy
- Thyme Hill (GB) 7 11 10 The Englands and Heywoods Philip Hobbs
- Tobefair (GB) 11 11 10 Down The Quay Club Debra Hamer
- Vinndication (IRE) 8 11 10 Moremoneythan Kim Bailey
- Vision des Flos (FR) 8 11 10 Ann & Alan Potts Limited Colin Tizzard
- Younevercall (IRE) 10 11 10 Youneverknow Partnership Kim Bailey
- Benie des Dieux (FR) 10 11 3 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins IRE
- Dame de Compagnie (FR) 8 11 3 Mr John P. McManus Nicky Henderson
- Great White Shark (FR) 7 11 3 Mr Malcolm C. Denmark W. P. Mullins IRE
- Heaven Help Us (IRE) 7 11 3 Mr J. Turner P. Hennessy IRE
- Paul's Saga (FR) 7 11 3 Gerald Laroche D. Cottin FR
- Roksana (IRE) 9 11 3 Mrs Sarah Faulks Dan Skelton