Hard to see Cole not being in the Stayers Hurdle mix
There have been several multiple winners of the Stayers Hurdle in recent years with Baracouda (2002, 2003), Inglis Drever (2005, 2007, 2008) and Big Bucks (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) dominating the division in their respective eras.
Last year, Thistlecrack was head and shoulders above his rivals and he would surely have been an odds-on chance to repeat his victory if lining up here.
But having embarked on a chasing career before picking up an unfortunate injury, Thistlecrack was never realistically going to defend his crown so the only previous Stayers Hurdle winner to feature will be Cole Harden who sprung a 14/1 shock in 2015.
|Thursday 16th March - 3.30pm||Odds||Won/Lost||Bet|
|Tips||Cole Harden (each-way w/o Unowhatimeanharry) Best Bet||@ 6 / 1|
The Warren Greatrex-trained gelding has not won in seven races since that famous triumph but his form figures read 2334232 so he usually gives a good account. On a track he loves and with the ground drying out all of the time, he will surely be in the mix once again.
Unow Harry will be hard to beat
The horse they all have to beat though is Unowhatimeanharry who is yet to taste defeat in eight runs since joining Harry Fry.
In three visits to the track this season, the JP McManus-owned gelding has won the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham with several reopposing horses in behind. He looks by far the most likely winner and quotes of around 11/8 would look huge if he adds to his unblemished record.
The other contenders
The horses most likely to trouble Unowhatimeanharry and Cole Harden include Jezki - the 2014 Champion Hurdle winner who beat Hurricane Fly on his only previous try over 3 miles at Punchestown in 2015. He disappointed over 2 miles at Gowran last time out when a 2/5 favourite but a return to Cheltenham could bring out the best him in. He is interesting but there are enough question marks to put me off.
Shaneshill has run three times at the Festival and has finished runner-up on each occasion. He might not be good enough to finally visit the Cheltenham winners enclosure but it would be a surprise if he doesn’t finish in or around the places. 11/1 looks a decent each-way price.
Look to the special markets for better value
There isn’t much that interests me further down the list so the difficult part is finding a tip from the previously mentioned horses.
I expect Unowhatimeanharry to win the race and there may be some bookies willing to lay him at 6/4 or 13/8 in the morning. Whilst tempting, I think there may be better value to be had in the ‘without the favourite’ market.
Both Cole Harden and Shaneshill are available at 6/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds for 3 places) and it is hard to see them not finishing in the money. I wouldn’t put anyone off backing both each-way but Cole Harden is the one I prefer as he has been there and done it in this race before.
I’m not really expecting him to become the next dual winner of the Stayers Hurdle but he can at least follow the hot favourite home.
2017 Stayers Hurdle Odds
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