Run in it’s present form since 1972 when known as the Stayers’ Hurdle the race has had several sponsors over the years and has been backed by Ladbrokes since 2005. The three mile contest is the ultimate test of the staying hurdler and has been dominated by many of the greats in that division over the year’s notably the great Big Buck’s, the only horse to win the race on four occasions.
The Howard Johnson-trained Inglis Drever won the race three times (2005 – 2007-2008) a feat that should have been accomplished by Crimson Embers in the 1980’s as the dual winner was ‘ robbed ‘ by stablemate Rose Ravine in 1985. After suffering serious interference by that horse in the closing stages the stewards (in their wisdom) decided to let the result stand due to the fact that the first two were in the same ownership (Sally Smart) and both in the care of trainer Fulke Walwyn. A decision which highlights just how little the average punter was considered at that time. Thankfully things have changed for the better over the last 30 years.
After running out an impressive winner of the race 12 months ago More Of
That looked like he could go on to dominate the race over the next few years
but the seven-year-old lost his unbeaten record when finishing a well beaten
third on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury last November, since when the
son of Beneficial has had a breathing operation from which the gelding has
failed to recover sufficiently to defend his title. With last year’s runner-up
Annie Power more likely to take the easier option in Tuesday’s OLBG Mares’
Hurdle the 2015 renewal looks one of the most open in the recent history.
2.At Fishers Cross – Rebecca Curtis’s son of Oscar looked an outstanding staying prospect at this time two years ago when running out an easy winner of the Albert Bartlett before an equally impressive victory in Aintree’s Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. The eight-year-old has failed to add to that tally in nine attempts since due to a series of physical problems and highly unlikely to end that losing spell in a race of this nature.
4.Blue Fashion – Just the two runs for Nicky Henderson since coming from France and runner up in both. Failed by two lengths against last year’s World hurdle winner More Of That in a Haydock handicap on his British debut, conceding 6lb to that horse and followed up last November by running Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen to three and three quarter lengths in Ascot’s Coral Hurdle. One of the least exposed runners and if able to stay the 3m trip a leading contender.
5.Briar Hill – Seven length winner of the Cheltenham Bumper in 2013 but in and out form since going over hurdles. In touch when falling at the 7th in last year’s Albert Bartlett as the 2-1 favourite but disappointing in three starts this season, although still in with a chance when falling at the last behind fellow rival Dedigout at Navan last month. Decent ground in a truely run race could be just what the seven-year-old needs however and no surprise to see him go well for the powerful Willie Mullins stable.
6.Cole Harden – Runner up to Beat That at Aintree last year and made all to win Wetherby’s Bet365 Hurdle on first run of season. Two decent efforts followed and excuse for below-par run at Cheltenham last time. Likely to be one of those setting the pace and capable of running into a place without winning.
7.Dedigout – Much better form over hurdles than fences but well behind several of these in Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle before winning Grade 2 contests at Gowran and Navan. Trip no problem but not good enough on balance of form.
8.Jetson – Decent staying handicap form last season for Jessica Harrington and took the scalp of Quevega in a Grade 1 at Punchestown last May. Second to Lieutenant Colonel in both starts this season but may turn the tables on that horse on better ground and one of the more lively outsiders.
9.Lieutenant Colonel – Back over hurdles after failing to land the odds in a Naas novice chase in November, a decision which has worked out well with two Grade 1 victories. Open to more improvement but short enough at current price on what he has achieved so far.
10.Monksland – Absent for two years after winning 2012 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. Two good runs this season but stiff task on balance of form though no surprise to see the eight-year-old run well over a trip that suits.
11.Pont Alexandre – Hasn’t seen a racecourse since finishing third behind The New One at the 2013 festival. Will be the training performance of the week if Willie Mullins can send this one out to win a championship contest after his lengthy absence.
12.Reve De Sivola – Thorough stayer who has some top class form to his name over this trip including when outbattling Zarkandar in Long Walk Hurdle. Well beaten in this race last year after a respectable fourth in 2013 and due plenty of respect. Beaten only a neck by Saphir Du Rheu in Cleeve Hurdle latest with a couple of these behind and should not be underestimated.
13.Rock On Ruby – The 2012 Champion Hurdle winner ran The New One to a head at Aintree last April over 2m 4f and has won his two most recent starts over slightly further. This is a step into the unknown for the ten-year-old son of Oscar but would probably be the one to beat if handling the trip.
14.Saphir Du Rheu – Connections decided to revert back to hurdles (as they did with Big Buck’s) after the six-year-old came to grief in Kempton’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and were rewarded with a victory in Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle. Lightly raced and open to plenty of improvement but whether he deserves to be disputing favouritism in this grade is open to question.
15.Seeyouatmidnight – Decent staying novice and encouraging seasonal reappearance at Haydock but this northern challenger needs to show marked improvement to play a leading role.
18.Un Temps Pour Tout – Encouraging reappearance from David Pipe’s French import on his fourth start for the trainer when third to Saphir Du Rheu and Reve De Sivola in Cleeve Hurdle. A leading player if makingthenecessary improvement following his seasonal debut.
19.Whisper – Like Saphir Du Rheu back over hurdles after failing to impress on chasing debut in January. Short head winner of Coral Cup at last year’s festival before beating At Fishers Cross in Aintree Grade 1. Runner up has failed to advertise that form and several make more appeal at bigger prices.
21.Zarkandar – Fourth behind More Of That last year and won French Grade 1 in November. Appeared to hit the front too soon when touched off by Reve De Sivola at Ascot last time and will need to put up a much better performance than 12 months ago so makes little appeal at current odds.
22.Annie Power – Despite having yet to run this season last year’s runner up would be the one to beat with 7lb mares’ allowance if taking her chance but that prospect is unlikely with Tuesday’s OLBG Mares’ Hurdle the preferred option.
Distance Course Going Progressive
At Fishers Cross Yes Yes Yes No
Blue Fashion No No Yes Yes
Briar Hill Yes Yes Yes No
Cole Harden Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dedigout Yes No Yes Yes
Jetson Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lieutenant Colonel Yes No Yes Yes
Monksland Yes No Yes No
Pont Alexandre No Yes Yes Yes
Reve De Sivola Yes Yes No No
Rock On Ruby No Yes Yes No
Sahir Du Rheu Yes Yes Yes Yes
Seeyouatmidnight Yes No Yes Yes
Un Temps Pour Tout Yes Yes Yes Yes
Whisper Yes Yes Yes Yes
Zarkandar Yes Yes Yes No