Stayers Hurdle Preview : Another Paisley Park Win?
The big race on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival is the Stayers' Hurdle. This looks a very open race and Flooring Porter will be out to win the race for the second year in a row. Paisley Park and Klassical Dream are among those out to stop that happening.
Flooring Porter Out to Retain Title
Trained by Gavin Cromwell, Flooring Porter won the 2021 Stayers' Hurdle by three-and-a-quarter lengths. This Irish runner went off at 12/1 last year but is expected to head the market this time around.
Form since that Cheltenham win hasn't been that of a champion. Flooring Porter was pulled up at Punchestown a month later. It wasn't a good day at all with the runner being keen to post, dwelling at the start, taking a keen hold, not being fluent over the hurdles and hanging badly to the left. Again, Flooring Porter was keen to post and raced freely at Navan in November. He was clear of his field and going best when falling two out.
A better performance took place at Leopardstown last December. Flooring Porter finished second, two lengths behind Klassical Dream and might have finished closer but for hanging left in the run-in. That behaviour has to be cut out if another Stayers' Hurdle is to be won this week. It as a better run though (22 lengths clear of the third) and there is the chance that the form with Klassical Dream can be reversed. We know that the defending champion can make his way up the Cheltenham hill and that may be the decisive factor as Flooring Porter bids to win a second Stayers' Hurdle.
Can Champ Live Up to His Name?
This is an open race and Champ has to be strongly considered to win the Stayers' Hurdle. This Nicky Henderson runner has competed over both fences and hurdles at the festival. 2020 saw Champ win the RSA Novices' Chase with 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo in second. Champ had a crack at the Gold Cup last year but was pulled up before the seventh fence after making some mistakes in his jumping.
This season has seen Champ back over hurdles and in December won the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot with both Thyme Hill and Paisley Park behind. His most recent race was in a dramatic Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January, finishing second behing Paisley Park. Champ is a strong runner and a good stayer, all of which means he has a good hance.
Another Paisley Park Miracle?
Now aged ten years old, this may well be one of the last times we see Paisley Park in contention to win a top race at the festival. Paisley Park (more a King than a Prince) won this race in 2019 but has finished seventh and third in two runs since.
Form had started to dip and Paisley Park was pulled up at Aintree last April. Three third places followed this season and it looked as if another poor performance was on the cards at Cheltenham in the Cleeve Hurdle in January. The runner didn't look in the mood to race and was left at the start. Commentator Ruby Walsh felt the horse was best off going back to the paddock rather than racing in the rear.
That wasn't to be the case though. Paisley Park made ground and then went on to win the race by three-and-a-quarter lengths from Champ. The best days are behind this runner but could we see one last hurrah? If Paisley Park was to win a second Stayers' Hurdle, then we could be in for one heck of an emotional race.