Stayers' Hurdle Ante-Post Tips: Sire Du Berlais to down big two

Stayers' Hurdle Tips: Last year's Pertemps winner Sire Du Berlais is a leading contender for Grade 1 glory.
Stayers' Hurdle Tips: Last year's Pertemps winner Sire Du Berlais is a leading contender for Grade 1 glory.

Steve Chambers takes a long range look at the Stayers' Hurdle following the release of the entries, and he picks out his best bet for the Grade 1 event, which takes place on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival...

One of the most exciting divisions this National Hunt season is the staying hurdling division, as the duels between Paisley Park and Thyme Hill have lit up the three-mile sphere, while there's a whole host of exciting stayers that are among the 51-strong entry list received for the Grade 1 Stayers' Hurdle, which takes place on March 18 at the Cheltenham Festival.

Emma Lavelle's Paisley Park and the Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill have served up two epic clashes this season, and while a potential trilogy bout has been mooted for the Cleeve Hurdle, Thyme Hill could be kept fresh for the Stayers' Hurdle. The first of their battles came in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, where Thyme Hill managed to get the hop over 2019 Stayers' Hurdle hero Paisley Park, as Hobbs' charge kicked a few lengths clear of his main market rival, and Lavelle's stable star was unable to bridge the gap.

Attempting similar tactics in the Long Walk Hurdle, Thyme Hill appeared to have emulated his Newbury success by kicking comfortably clear of Paisley Park, but Aidan Coleman managed to get a real tune out of Paisley Park in the final furlong, and in the shadow of the post the multiple Grade 1 winner got his head in front. Richard Johnson was frustrated in the aftermath of the race, as his ride on board Thyme Hill wasn't a winning one, but the multiple champion jockey will relish another chance of downing Paisley Park at the Cheltenham Festival in the spring, and last season's Albert Bartlett fourth has to be a major player.

But, following that Ascot win, Paisley Park is heading the Stayers' Hurdle betting at 3/1 with Thyme Hill a point bigger at 4s, and Paisley Park has shown before that he comes to light at the festival, and his impressive 2019 victory in the Grade 1 event means he lines up as the one to beat. Often hitting a flat spot, Paisley Park's guts and resolve can see him pass tiring horses in the closing stages, and while Thyme Hill is a dour stayer himself, if Coleman can keep Paisley Park mid-division as they come down the hill and then let him show his strength in the final few furlongs then Lavelle's charge can be on the vicinity for what looks another epic duel.

Gordon Elliott will go in search of his first Stayers' Hurdle crown and the Cullentra House handler will unleash dual Cheltenham Festival winner Sire Du Berlais, who has won the Pertemps Final the last two years and is now looking to step up and land Grade 1 glory at the Prestbury Park extravaganza.

A horse that appears to produce his best work in the spring, Sire Du Berlais defied top weight to land Pertemps glory off a mark of 152 last season, and has since progressed into an accomplished Graded performer. Kicking off this season at Navan in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle, the JP McManus-owned raider comfortably beat French Dynamite by a half a length with the likes of Supasundae and Sixshooter in behind, while Ronald Pump was a faller that day.

Handed his toughest test to date at the end of December in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, Sire Du Berlais could only finish third to Flooring Porter, but connections wouldn't have been too disappointed with that run, as he just tired in soft ground in the closing stages in a race that saw Flooring Porter enter the Stayers' Hurdle reckoning.

Fourth in the 2018 Martin Pipe, Sire Du Berlais was victorious on his last two visits to GL50 and the classy gelding will bid for a third success in the middle of March in what will be his toughest assignment. Proven in red-hot handicaps, Sire Du Berlais is a horse that travels smoothly in behind a red-hot gallop and Thyme Hill should mean it's a fiercely run affair, so if Elliott's raider can just stay in behind the leaders before unleashing his surge after the final flight - like in last season's Pertemps - then the Irish raider could well just have that little extra speed to see off the fast-finishing Paisley Park, and Sire Du Berlais can duly down the front two in the betting.

Cheltenham Festival Races

There's a whole host of notable names etched in the top half of the betting and Willie Mullins is bidding for a third Stayers' Hurdle win in five years and Benie Des Dieux is the standout of his runners, with the likes of Bacardys and Cesarewitch winner Great White Shark, while a shock entry is Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Kemboy, who is an unlikely runner.

A narrow defeat to Honeysuckle in last year's Mares' Hurdle saw Benie Des Dieux fail to win her second Mares' Hurdle, as the 2018 heroine was touched off by Henry De Bromhead's class act, and while she would be a very interesting contender, if she was to take her place, but it's likely Mullins will opt for another crack at Honeysuckle in the Mares' Hurdle on the opening day, and punters should veer away from her unless backing her in the Non Runner No Bet market.

Gavin Cromwell's young gun Flooring Porter propelled into the Stayers picture with that abovementioned victory in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown and he adds more depth to a strong Irish charge. Six-year-olds have an excellent record in the race in recent times with Bacchanal (2000), Inglis Drever (2005), My Way De Solzen (2006), Big Buck's (2009), More Of That (2014) and Cole Harden (2015) all landing the prize as a six-year-old, but he will need to continue on an upward curve and it's hard to see him franking the Leopardstown form with Sire Du Berlais.

Just edged out by Sire Du Berlais in last year's Pertemps, The Storyteller has been switching between fences and hurdles and having chased home Flooring Porter at Leopardstown last time out, he could be an eye-catching each-way play at 22/1, but he can often find one too good on the day, while recent Relkeel Hurdle winner McFabulous could bypass the Cheltenham Festival altogether and head to the Aintree Hurdle according to his trainer Paul Nicholls, but he is an improving staying hurdler and warrants respect, if taking his chance.

Last year's shock winner Lisnagar Oscar has failed to recapture the form that saw him spring a 50/1 surprise in the 2020 running of the Stayers' Hurdle, but the Rebecca Curtis-trained raider is sure to take his chance in the race as he bids for back-to-back wins, but he can't be fancied on what he has shown this season. Ronald Pump chased him home last season, but having fell at Navan two starts ago he was then no match for Honeysuckle in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, as he finished second and it's the silver medal that is often seen being won by the Irish charge, so he can be ignored.

Like Benie Des Dieux, Roksana is another classy mare who will have multiple options at the festival, and she is likely to head to the Mares' Hurdle, while another worthy of a mention last season's Albert Bartlett third Fury Road, who was down the field at Christmas at Leopardstown, but could enjoy a return to Prestbury Park and adds more depth to the Elliott charge.

We have a fascinating market headed by Paisley Park and Thyme Hill and that pair should put up a bold bid, but Sire Du Berlais is an attractive betting proposition at double-figured odds, and the dual Pertemps winner can step out of handicap company with aplomb and claim Grade 1 glory.


Stayers' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Thursday 18th March - back Sire Du Berlais at 11/1 (bet365)

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Sire Du Berlais

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