PADDY POWER STAYERS HURDLE
Grade 1, £325,000, Three Miles
Cheltenham Thursday 1530 local, 1630 CET, 0230 Thurs AEDST
Going - Soft to Heavy
1. Champ - went back to hurdling after failing in the Gold Cup last year, and considering his record of six wins and three seconds from nine starts, it's no great surprise. Beat Thyme Hill at Ascot in the Long Walk but then couldn't match Paisley Park up the hill here in the Cleeve. 10yo, gets his chance but probably leaning to younger rivals.
2. Flooring Porter - very consistent stayer who emerged last season to win the Irish Xmas Hurdle and this race, and ran second in the Xmas Hurdle again (2L behind Klassical Dream) this time in. His RPRs have been within 3lbs for his last four completions (pulled up at Punchestown Festival), so he sets a high bar. Goes very close.
3. Home By The Lee - second at big odds behind Royal Kahala at Gowran Park last time (ahead of Klassical Dream). Hasn't had a lot of starts so there's probably still some upside in him but would be a massive shock to see him in the frame.
4. Klassical Dream - Supreme winner in 2019, had his issues since but won the Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown last year and the 3m Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown before stopping in the home straight in the Galmoy at Gowran Park last time. Perhaps the previous run took too much out of him, who knows, but he is the class runner of the field. Trust the trainer.
5. Koshari - has won a couple of handicaps at big odds in past year but miles out of his class in this company, especially as a 10yo.
6. Lisnagar Oscar - shock 50/1 winner of this race in 2020 (on soft), hasn't won in nine races since that triumph. Can't have but trainer Rebecca Curtis is her usual optimistic self.
7. Paisley Park - the old champion (2019 winner) returns for another crack but he's not the reliable star he was. Third last year behind Flooring Porter, seventh on soft in 2020. Put in a remarkable performance to win the Cleeve Hurdle here last time, missing many lengths at the start and still ran on late to win to beat Champ. Odds are against him now as a 10yo but if his mind is on the job, he's in with a shot.
8. Song For Someone - a curious entry as he's never been beyond 2m4f and those runs never really suggested he needed further. Does love the mud but a few lengths behind these at his best.
9. Thyme Hill - long regarded as a Festival winner in the making but hasn't quite cracked it. Third in the Bumper in 2019 behind Envoi Allen, fourth behind Monkfish in the 2020 Albert Bartlett, missed last year but won the G1 Stayers Hurdle at Aintree. Second to Champ in the Long Walk at Ascot in December. Trainer Philip Hobbs looks in good nick, Camprond was unlucky yesterday with the rain but still went close in the Coral Cup. Goes close.
10. Royal Kahala - won the G2 Galmoy at Gowran Park last time, seemingly relishing the step up to three miles. The concern is Klassical Dream stopped that day (giving her 11lbs) and there was an 80/1 shot (Home By The Lee) in second so I'm not confident in the strength of the form. But she can only win and she was strong through the line. Happy in the mud as well.
Great race with the pen only going through a couple of them. Flooring Porter sets the standard, he just runs to his mark again and again while most of the others seem to have their quirks. He'll set a fast pace and make his rivals earn it. Klassical Dream is the one who could come out and win by six if he's on his game, while Royal Kahala is the emerging one who won't be far behind.
FLOORING PORTER (4/1), Klassical Dream (4/1), Royal Kahala (6/1)