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Wednesday 24 February 2021

Countdown to the Cheltenham Festival - Wednesday 24th Feb (20 days to go)

Further to the post on Monday, Honeysuckle has been pushed-out to 3/1 by Hills, and I think that is great value about the mare considering she is in the form of her life, loves Cheltenham, and has the advantage of the 7lb mares' allowance.  Hills are not (yet) offering NRNB, and if you want that the best odds available are 5/2 from Betfred.  I've nothing against Goshen, I think he's the best gelding we've seen hurdling this season, and I have absolutely no problem with him being a 5yo as - and I did this exercise a few years ago - there is no reason that 5yo's should be opposed in the Champion Hurdle.  Those that take part in the race because they are good enough (and not those providing the owners with a jolly) do well. Unfortunately, I just don't think that he's 7lb better than Honeysuckle.

Today, I've been looking at the Stayers Hurdle over 3-mile on day-3 of the Festival. This race was won by Lisnagar Oscar last year, and that he's 20/1 in the betting for the race this year tells you that it was a bit of a shock result.  Why was it a shock? Mainly because the 3-mile hurdling division lacks a true star in the mold of Big Bucks, Inglis Drever, or Baracouda. I think we all thought Paisley Park was going to develop into a major player after winning in 2019, and he went into last years race as the odds-on 4/6 fav, but when the chips were down he found nothing.  No explanation for that performance, other than he lost a couple of shoes during the race. The reliable and consistent Bacardys was 3rd, however that he was 3rd suggests the race was a poor vintage. 

This season, no true clear favourite has emerged.  Paisley Park narrowly beat Thyme Hill at Ascot on 19Dec (and that isn't a good omen, as most winners at Cheltenham run between Christmas Day and Valentines Day prior to winning at the Festival), and that looks to be the best of the form in the UK. I really can't see the 9yo Paisley Park improving, but he should run a "160" performance.  However, the 7yo Thyme Hill has improved with every run, and lacked a bit of luck at the Festival last year when 4th behind Monkfish in the 3-mile Albert Bartlett novices hurdle. As such, I'd favour him to be the best of the UK challenge, and he's at 7/2 NRNB in the betting.

However, you cannot ignore the Irish in this race, and Gordon Elliott will be sending the 9yo Sire Du Berlais, twice a winner of the 3-mile Pertemps Handicap hurdle; last year carrying 11st 12lb off a rating of OR152. I rated that performance about 5lb better than Lisnagar Oscar in the Stayers' Hurdle later on the card, and so a repeat next month would put him bang-there.  However, on 28Dec, Sire Du Berlais was beaten by another improving young staying hurdler - Flooring Porter. Now a 6yo, this horse is trained by Gavin Cromwell who trained Espoir D'Allen to win the Champion Hurdle in 2019, and Darver Star to run 3rd in the Champion Hurdle in 2020; this was no mean feat as Darver Star started the season winning a handicap hurdle as a 7yo off OR106. Back in 4th on 28Dec was Fury Road (3rd in the 2020 Albert Bartlett just ahead of Thyme Hill) and he franked the form with a good run on Sunday 21Feb at Navan.

To my mind, Flooring Porter along with Thyme Hill, are the most likely to win the Stayers' Hurdle. Both are improving, both have age on their side. However, while Thyme Hill is 7/2, Flooring Porter is 14/1 NRNB (and 16/1 without that insurance).  He has to be the value.

Advised wager: Stayers' Hurdle - FLOORING PORTER - £7.50 each-way @ 14/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3) PLUS £5.00 win @ 14/1 (with Paddy Power)


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