Ante-post tips and odds for the 2022 Stayers' Hurdle
This Grade One headlines the card on day three of the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday 17th March 2022
Flooring Porter will be a big player as he returns to defend his crown
Klassical Dream, Champ and Thyme Hill also feature prominently in the betting
Jockey Danny Mullins celebrates after riding Flooring Porter to victory in the Stayers Hurdle. (Getty)
Share this article
The oldest of the four Championship races at the Cheltenham Festival. The feature race on St Patrick's day was first staged at Prestbury Park in 1912 and it's been won by many of the sport's greatest staying hurdlers, including Galmoy, Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Big Buck's.
In the latest installment of our 2022 Cheltenham Festival tips series, we've taken a look through the entries for the Stayers' Hurdle and picked out our best ante-post bets.
Flooring Porter capped a remarkable rise to the head of the hurdles ranks by winning the Stayers’ Hurdle last season. In July, Gavin Cromwell’s star won a handicap hurdle at Gowran Park off a mark off 122. Four starts later, Flooring Porter made all to win the Grade One three-mile hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Danny Mullins then dictated the tempo brilliantly at Cheltenham, kicking clear entering the home straight before comfortably holding Sire Du Berlais at arm’s length on the run to the line.
Things haven’t been plain sailing for Flooring Porter since then. Cromwell’s stable star was pulled up at Punchestown in the spring, having failed to recover from a sluggish start. Flooring Porter didn’t jump particularly well on his reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle and fell at the second-last when coming back to the field. At Leopardstown over Christmas, Klassical Dream poached an early lead over Mullins’ mount and, although Flooring Porter battled back bravely, he eventually succumbed to a two-length defeat.
Despite spending almost 500 days on the sidelines, former Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Klassical Dream hacked up on his only start of last season in the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown. Paul Townend then, rather cheekily, poached an eight-length lead right out of the gates at Leopardstown. Flooring Porter moved forward to keep the leader honest, but there was nothing that Danny Mullins could do to bridge the gap and Klassical Dream kept on to enforce his position at the top of the staying ranks in Ireland.
Having missed last year’s Cheltenham Festival through injury, Thyme Hill ground out a snug victory in the Liverpool Hurdle on his final outing of last season. You can put a line through his reappearance run in France. British horses often struggle when French ground turns extremely heavy and Thyme Hill was never travelling at any stage. I expected Thyme Hill to return to top form in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last time out, and so he did, registering the second highest RPR of his career. It was still not good enough to get the win, however, as Champ proved a little too classy on the day.
Nicky Henderson made the surprise decision to run Champ back over hurdles just a week before the Long Walk. Henderson had been intending to send his ten-year-old back over fences this season, with the team eyeing another tilt at the Gold Cup. Jonjo O’Neill’s mount travelled enthusiastically on the heels of the leaders at Ascot. Champ jumped his way into the lead turning for home and found a little extra after the last to pull a length clear of Thyme Hill and secure an impressive win.
There’s then a huge chasm between the leading quartet and Sporting John in the betting. Philip Hobbs’ star has relished the return to hurdling this season, winning well at Cheltenham before scoring in a Pertemps Qualifier at Warwick. Despite conquering a high-quality field with ease in that handicap, Sporting John has only been upped five pounds to 156 and I’d be surprised if Hobbs and his team didn’t try to make the most of that mark by carrying top-weight into the Pertemps Final.
Sire Du Berlais was my selection in this race 12 months ago, but his late charge was only good enough for second behind Flooring Porter. Five defeats in a row have seen Gordon Elliott’s ten-year-old drop down to a mark of 155, just three pounds higher than when he won his second Pertemps Final two years ago. Like Sporting John, he looks more likely to enter another Pertemps than run in the feature race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival.
Although he finished second in the Relkeel Hurdle, Cheltenham is a track that clearly doesn’t suit McFabulous and he’ll likely be saved for the Aintree Hurdle. Thomas Darby is another who will be kept for Aintree and I can’t see Goshen being stepped up to three miles in time for the Festival. Burning Victory will probably be kept in mares company or thrown into the Coral Cup, while Asterion Forlonge and Melon will remain over fences.
Paisley Park will probably garner some each way attention in the build-up to Cheltenham. The 2020 winner remains a firm favourite with the fans, but recent performances suggest Emma Lavelle’s star is no longer at the peak of his powers.
We’re then left looking at the likes of Darver Star, Commander Of Fleet and Gentlemansgame, who have stacks to find on the market leaders. Lisnagar Oscar has only challenged for a win once in eight starts since winning the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle as a 50/1 outsider.
Molly Ollys Wishes, while very capable in her own sex, doesn’t appeal in the slightest. Song For Someone has plenty of ability and a decent engine, but his stamina for this trip has to be seriously questioned.
The top four are head and shoulders above the rest of the entrants. To spring a surprise, someone sitting at a lengthy price is going to have to find ten pounds of improvement from somewhere, and hope the market leaders fail to show their true colours. That’s not going to happen, so I’m going to restrict my search for the 2022 Stayers' Hurdle winner to the quartet sitting atop the market.
Of the four, Thyme Hill is the most consistent and sits on the most appealing price. The other three have, however, shown that they are capable of running up to an RPR near the 170 mark, and I’m not sure that Thyme Hill can take his game to that sort of level.
Considering the winner poached such a lengthy lead at the start, Flooring Porter’s performance at Leopardstown was nothing short of brilliant. Gavin Cromwell’s star was much the best in this race last season and a similar performance is expected. I just don’t think has the same natural ability as the two ahead of him in the market, who are both more than capable of producing a freakish performance.
Champ isn’t your usual ten-year-old. Paisley Park, who’s the same age as Champ, has run 19 times over hurdles. Darver Star has 16 hurdle runs to his name and Sire Du Berlais has run 21 times over the smaller obstacles. Champ has started just eight hurdles’ races, winning six times and placing second on the other two occasions. Although he did win the 2019 Festival Novices’ Chase, the race fell into his lap. To me, Champ never looked a natural over fences and the team have definitely made the right move in targeting the Stayers’ Hurdle.
I would love to see Nicky Henderson’s faith rewarded with a Stayers’ Hurdle success. Yet, I fear Champ may have met his match with KLASSICAL DREAM, a similarly enigmatic sort with more still to achieve over three miles.
To bolt up at the Punchestown Festival by nine lengths, having been off the track for so long, was an incredible sight to see. Patrick Mullins mount sauntered into contention, as every rider around him pressed the panic button and Klassical Dream needed little encouragement to punch out a nine-length success.
While he clearly benefitted from the farcical start at Leopardstown, Klassical Dream’s lengthy advantage didn’t last for that long. Flooring Porter had closed the gap to around a length by the end of the first mile. Travelling down the back-straight, Klassical Dream’s bold jumping widened the gap back to around five lengths and, this time, Flooring Porter was never able to eat into that lead.
Paul Townend said follow Leopardstown that, "He's learnt a lot about jumping and how to gallop and he pulled out enough in the end". Willie Mullins then said, "We're getting to know him a lot more now. I think with that race under his belt we'd have a lot more confidence in him.”
Out of context, you'd presume they were talking about one of the many talented novices at County Carlow. To hear those words spoken about an eight-year-old, who's won five Grade Ones and remains unbeaten over this distance, is quite surprising. It suggests to me that the team feel they haven't got to the bottom of what Klassical Dream can produce.
If there is indeed more improvement to come, then running in the Galmoy Hurdle on Thursday could do Klassical Dream the world of good. If Willie Mullins' star makes it back to Prestbury Park unscathed, I won’t be siding against him. Klassical Dream will be part of my Cheltenham Festival tips.
Klassical Dream is already the one to beat in this year's Stayers' Hurdle. If there's more improvement to come, he's going to be incredibly hard to beat.
2022 Stayers' Hurdle Tips: Klassical Dream Straight Win @11/4 at Paddy Power - 25 Units
New customer offer. Place a £10 Sportsbook bet on any Football market, at min. odds 1/2 (1.5) between the 1st and 30th April — get £40 in free bets, valid 30 days. Only deposits via Cards will qualify. Free bets will be awarded after the qualifying bet has been settled. T&Cs apply. Please Gamble Responsibly.