The Stayers’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival was a triumph for bookmakers with three outsiders filling the frame. Lisnagar Oscar belied odds of 50/1 for a two-length win over Irish raider Ronald Pump.
Neither has done anything to advertise the form since. Lisnagar Oscar was a weakening fourth on his reappearance in Wetherby’s West Yorkshire Hurdle, albeit under a Grade 1 penalty. The runner-up took a tired fall in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan when sent off favourite.
There is evidence which suggests the freak result at Cheltenham was something of a fluke, with the betting on the 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle very open. It seems harsh to single out hotpot Paisley Park for performing below market expectation that day after hitting his customary flat spot without getting any kind of second wind. What that has done is created a lively ante post market, and here are some of the early season movers in it.
Previous Cheltenham Festival winner Roksana relished a return back up to the three-mile trip of the Stayers’ Hurdle when scoring on her return to action at Wetherby. The beneficiary of that final flight fall by Benie Des Dieux in the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle hadn’t won since until a run on Charlie Hall Chase day.
It has to be said that race terms were entirely in the favour of Dan Skelton’s charge. Roksana was getting weight all-round and other horses entered in the West Yorkshire Hurdle used the outing as pipe openers for other targets.
Without knocking the form too much, she would get a sex allowance from the geldings at Cheltenham too. That 7lb could be very valuable; so, if her connections want to go down the Stayers’ Hurdle route, Roksana is now the same price – 16/1 – for that as a third outing in the Mares’ Hurdle.
If you want evidence of how shrewd a trainer Paul Nicholls is, just look at the races he has picked for McFabulous in 2020. This very smart bumper performer was finding two miles over the obstacles too sharp, so his handler duly stepped him up in trip.
The progress made since has been significant. After breaking his maiden tag at Market Rasen, he made Grade 3 novice handicap company look easy at Kempton with an impressive follow-up. McFabulous was allowed to contest the Grade 2 Persian War at Chepstow on reappearance and stayed on very well.
Again, you can question what he beat there but the visual impression was that of an easy victory. Bookmakers added McFabulous into to the Stayers’ Hurdle market off the back of that and he’s now a 12/1 racing bet for that at Cheltenham with 888sport.
Sire Du Berlais
After two course and distance victories carrying heavy weights in handicap company in the last two renewals of the Pertemps Final, Sire Du Berlais has by trainer Gordon Elliott’s own admission no option but to go in the 2021 Stayers’ Hurdle. The assessor forces the hands of his powerful connections.
Owned by legendary gambler and leading Irish racehorse owner JP McManus, Sire Du Berlais further advertised his claims of a Cheltenham hat-trick by winning his return to action. That came in the aforementioned Lismullen Hurdle where his stamina kicked in.
Now a Grade 2 scorer, Sire Du Berlais looks a big contender. He is better than a handicapper and his odds of Stayers’ Hurdle success being halved into 8/1 after his display at Navan show the bookies fear him. He might just be the best staying hurdler owned by McManus since Baracouda.
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