Stayers Hurdle

The Stayers Hurdle is a Grade 1 race over three miles at the Cheltenham Festival. The race was formerly known as the World Hurdle and is one of the top four ante-post betting races at the meeting. Big Buck’s won this race for four successive seasons between 2009 and 2012, surpassing the record of three victories set by Inglis Drever (2005, 2007 and 2008). Other notable winners include Crimson Embers (1982 and 1986), Baracouda (2002 and 2003) and Paisley Park (2019).

The Race

The Stayers’ Hurdle takes place on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival in March. It is the main target for the top stayers in Britain and Ireland. There have been several multiple winners of the race but no horse has managed to defend their crown since Big Buck’s claimed his record fourth successive victory in 2012. It is rare for a high class two-mile hurdler to step up successfully to this marathon trip and the emphasis is firmly on stamina.

Famous Stayers’ Hurdle Winners & History

The Stayers Hurdle had humble beginnings having originally been run as a Selling Hurdle in 1912. It was replaced by the Spa Hurdle in 1946 before being given its current title in 1972. The race was moved to its current Thursday slot at the Cheltenham Festival in 1993. The race was sponsored by Ladbrokes between 2005 and 2015 and renamed the World Hurdle, reverting to the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2017.

Derring Rose was a popular winner in 1981 for Fred Winter and John Francome. He was a temperamental horse who had been known to refuse to race. He trailed the field early on but responded to Francome’s perseverance to gradually work his way through the field and win decisively.

There was drama in 1985 when 1982 winner Crimson Embers was badly hampered by stable companion Rose Ravine. Both horses were owned by Sally Smart and the result was left unaltered following a lengthy stewards’ enquiry. Crimson Embers reclaimed his title in 1986 at the age of eleven, the oldest winner in modern times.

Inglis Drever became the first three-time winner with victories in 2005, 2007 and 2008. He defeated the reigning champion, French-trained Baracouda (2002 and 2003), to record his first success. Inglis Drever was owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, who also scored with Nichols Canyon in 2017.

Big Buck’s is the most prolific winner in the history of the race with four victories for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh. The horse returned to hurdling after unseating his rider in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup and would remain unbeaten for his next 18 races. He also won the Liverpool Hurdle four times but a serious injury at Newbury caused him to miss a year. He returned in the 2013-14 season and was retired after finishing fifth when attempting a fifth Stayers’ Hurdle victory.

Key Stayers’ Hurdle Trials

The Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance in January is often the most significant trial for the Stayers’ Hurdle. Six of the last twelve winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle on their previous start. Cole Harden finished fourth in this race in 2015 before winning at the festival. Thistlecrack and Paisley Park won both races in 2016 and 2019 respectively. Paisley Park repeated his victory in 2020 but was beaten in the Stayers’ Hurdle behind 50-1 Lisnagar Oscar who had finished third in the Cleeve.

The Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot (currently run as the Marsh Hurdle) in December has been won by six subsequent Stayers’ Hurdle winners. Derring Rose, Baracouda, My Way De Solzen, Big Buck’s, Thistlecrack and Paisley Park all won the Long Walk and the Stayers’ Hurdle in the same season.

Willie Mullins took an unusual route with both Nichols Canyon (2017) and Penhill (2018). Nichols Canyon had fallen in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and was stepping up significantly in distance. Penhill had not raced for almost a year prior to winning here, although he did win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over course and distance at the previous festival meeting.

Stayers’ Hurdle Betting Trends

Lisnagar Oscar at 50-1 in 2020 was the longest-priced winner in the history of the race. It was the biggest shock since Anzum won at 40-1 for David Nicholson and Richard Johnson in 1999. Favourites have a mixed record in recent years.

Big Buck’s started favourite for this last three victories here while Thistlecrack (2016) and Paisley Park (2019) were both strong market leaders. Paisley Park was rated the banker bet of the meeting by many shrewd judges in 2019 but his defeat in 2020 proved costly. Cole Harden (2015) was 14-1, Penhill (2018) 12-1 and Nichols Canyon (2017) 10-1.

Stayers’ Hurdle Stats

Two-thirds of recent winners had been successful on their last run before the Cheltenham Festival. A similar percentage had won at least once at Cheltenham and all of them had raced at the track. Three-quarters of winners had at least two previous outings over three miles or further.

All bar Penhill (2018) had raced twice or more during the current season. Class is another key factor here with an official rating of 156 or higher usually required to win this race. Horses aged between 6 and 8 have dominated in the Stayers Hurdle. Only nine-year-olds Inglis Drever (2008), Big Buck’s (2012) and Solwhit (2013) were able to win from outside this age range in recent times.

Top Trainers and Jockeys

The four victories of Big Buck’s have left Paul Nicholls as the leading trainer in the history of the race. He was owned by the Stewart family who share top owner honours with Andrea and Graham Wylie. Ruby Walsh is the leading jockey with five victories having added to his four wins on Big Buck’s when riding Nichols Canyon to victory in 2017.

Betting on the Stayers’ Hurdle

The Ante-post market on the Stayers’ Hurdle is open throughout the year. It is largely based on the outcome of the previous year’s race but a progressive stayer can shake up the market. Paisley Park was still a 16-1 chance after winning the Long Walk Hurdle in 2019 and 6-1 immediately after winning the Cleeve Hurdle. He eventually returned a winning 11-8 favourite.

Summary

The Stayers’ Hurdle is one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival. Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s helped to raise the profile of the race which always has a lively ante-post market. Thistlecrack (2016) and Paisley Park (2019) featured in plenty of Cheltenham bets and punters will be hoping to latch on to another staying star after last year’s 50-1 shock result.