Cheltenham: Mullins stayer can roll back the years

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RACING fan Gaurav Chaddah (@GauravChaddah) begins looking ahead to the upcoming Cheltenham Festival by providing his ante-post thoughts on the Stayers Hurdle.

Cheltenham Festival | Stayers Hurdle | Thursday 14th March 2019

The clock is ticking and on Tuesday we will be just six weeks away from the famous Cheltenham roar.

Whilst the Festival is slowly creeping upon us, most of the ante-post markets are very much up in the air the and we are potentially facing one of the most open Festivals in a very long time. Bar Altior in the Champion Chase, the majority of races remain shy of a firm favourite, which does allow scope for value in the ante-post markets.

This week I shall be looking at the Stayers Hurdle.

Lavelle horse the one to beat

The Emma Lavelle-trained Paisley Park was hammered into best price 3/1 with Ladbrokes on Saturday following his emphatic 12 length win of the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle.

The progressive seven-year-old is now four from four this season and has confirmed his status as the UK’s top staying hurdler, and his position at the top of the market is very much justified.

Now a course and distance winner, Paisley Park certainly goes into the race with very much every chance, but parts of his profile remind me a little of Sam Spinner from last season.

The Jedd O’Keeffe horse was sent off as 9/4 favourite for the race after winning the Grade 1 Longwalk but ended up fading into fifth.

Whilst Paisley Park may certainly be the best stayer in the UK, there might be value to be had with horses from across the water.

Faugheen can roll back the years

I think the race is a lot more open than the betting now suggests and for me the value certainly lies with Willie Mullins’ 11-year-old Faugheen.

It’s clear that Faugheen is certainly not the horse he once was but it looks like it’s finally hit home that he clearly needs three miles and still retains lots of his ability.

Faugheen finished a 20-length sixth in last year’s Champion Hurdle but then stepped up to three miles in April for the Punchestown Stayers Hurdle, where he certainly showed he is still top class, winning by an emphatic 13 lengths.

Faugheen that day beat stablemate Penhill, last year’s Stayer’s Hurdle winner. Currently, Penhill is second favourite for the race at a best price of 7/1 with William Hill, who also go best price on Faugheen, at 12/1.

For me, the pair should be a lot closer in the market than that. Faugheen hammered Penhill pretty much on the bridle at Punchestown in April and looked the much better horse. We are yet to see Penhill this season, whilst Faugheen fell when travelling well behind Apple’s Jade in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.

Cotswold track will suit Mullins stayer

It is also worth keeping in mind, that despite his position in the Champion Hurdle last year, Faugheen has very much a good record at Cheltenham.

In 2014 he eased to victory in the Grade 1 Neptune Hurdle and followed it up with victory in the 2015 Champion Hurdle. Injury prevented participation in both 2016 and 2017 before returning to action last year.

Faugheen certainly likes it round Cheltenham and is a lot more comfortable these days in the staying races over three miles rather than two. His emphatic victory at Punchestown at April shouldn’t be forgotten and is easily the best staying performance in recent times, that alone suggests his price is too big.

Best Bets

Stayers Hurdle – Faugheen (12/1 each-way William Hill)

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