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Paisley Park was one of a number of high-profile below par performances over the week, and it has since transpired that he suffered from an irregular heartbeat post-race. Let’s hope he recovers fully, but what it did do was blow the division wide open – not only for the Stayers’ Hurdle won by Lisnagar Oscar last week, but also for the 2021 edition.
Anyone with any ounce of interest in the game will have noted that the Albert Bartlett won by Monkfish featured perhaps four of the most promising horses going forward. Monkfish, Latest Exhibition and Fury Road are just three of what could be a fascinating crop of novice chasers next season – when you add Envoi Allen, Shiskin, The Big Getaway and The Big Breakaway to that list, and we might just be treated to the best novice chase division that we have seen for many a year.
But I digress, it is the horse in fourth in the Albert Bartlett, Thyme Hill, whose run was one of the most eye-catching of the whole week. Squeezed up going to the last, and then again after last, he couldn’t quite force his way into the frame. Added in to the fact that he travelled widest of all for virtually the whole race, affording mountains of ground to the three horses that finished in front of him, and his run was an absolute belter.
His trainer Philip Hobbs has expressed that Thyme Hill is not the most robust of horses, so I would be surprised if he went chasing. There is a lovely run of staying hurdle trials through the winter, and I expect Thyme Hill to take high order in that division. 20/1 could be long gone by mid-winter.
The other bet in the Stayers’ Hurdle 2021, is the dual Pertemps Final winner Sire Du Berlais at 25/1. Gordon Elliott is a master at bringing horses back to the Cheltenham festival to win or run well on multiple occasions – Tiger Roll, anyone.
Sire Du Berlais won the Pertemps in a time 2.98 seconds quicker than Lisnagar Oscar won the Stayer’s Hurdle this year, on the same day. Enough said. Given the Irish handicappers domination of this year’s handicap hurdlses in particular, it is highly likely that Sire Du Berlai’s eyes will no longer be on handicaps from this point onwards.
The following content was added at 8am on Monday 1st February 2021
There is a possibility that some of the races that were planned in for Cheltenham Trials Day will be re-arranged for this coming week, and chief among them will be the Cleeve Hurdle – which was going to be Paisley Park’s final act of public preparation for the Cheltenham Festival.
Other than the Cleeve Hurdle, there is only the Boyne Hurdle at Navan over 2m5f and the Rendlesham Hurdle over 3m at Haydock Park, both run over the same weekend in late February, that could provide any further clues as to the Stayers’ Hurdle make up.
With that in mind, now is a good time to have a good look at that race, as with the ante-post favourite in mind, Paisley Park, and his likely opponents in any re-arranged Cleeve Hurdle, anything other than a resounding victory would surprise, and provide an opportunity for the layers to shorten others.
Most likely, it could be that there is little movement in the Stayers’ Hurdle market for the upcoming few weeks at least – and having secured two lovely prices about Thyme Hill and Sire Du Berlais just after last year’s Festival – it may serve to add another string to the long-distance bow.
That horse ran this week, finished second in a Grade 2 and was confirmed as having the Stayers’ Hurdle as his target by his trainer. While at his best last season, he beat subsequent Albert Bartlett winner and current Festival Novices’ Chase favourite Monkfish, by an ever-widening 7 lengths over hurdles.
What price would Monkfish be for this race if he had stayed over hurdles? I dare say he wouldn’t be 50/1. More like 5/1. However, Diol Ker is available at 50/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral for the Stayers’ Hurdle, and just has to be added to the list of ante-post each-way bets at that price.
Chasing was aborted after a fall and a couple of runs soured by sketchiness over the larger obstacles, and that lack of efficiency in jumping was in evidence on his subsequent assignment back over hurdles. Which, despite meeting virtually every hurdle on the wrong stride, he still won.
But fitted with cheekpieces this week in the Galmoy Hurdle, and Diol Ker was back to his low and fluent best, which was a feature of his novice hurdling, when he saw off the mighty Monkfish, as previously mentioned.
Diol Ker has a huge engine, as evidenced by the fact that at the end of three of the most gruelling miles in bottomless ground at Gowran Park, he was still able to finish stronger than anything. Only his conqueror, Sam’s Profile, was anywhere near raising a gallop to the same extent.
It is entirely possible that Diol Ker is reliant on heavy ground, but he would’ve won a novice hurdle with consummate ease at Leopardstown on a sound surface, but for stumbling after the last. I am of the opinion that Diol Ker could well be suited to a very truly run race, as he simply has no bottom to his stamina levels.
At 50/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral each-way for the Stayers’ Hurdle, he is wildly overpriced.