The 2019 Stayers Hurdle is run over two miles, seven furlongs, two hundred and thirteen yards. News broke two days ago that last years winner Penhill won’t be returning to defend his crown, after suffering an injury, which is a big shame as it’s possible to pick holes in all the main contenders left for this. Paisley Park has hardened in the market as a result, and is now a top priced 2/1 favourite.

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Paisley Park has improved this season, winning all four of his starts. He started off with a handicap victory off 140 at Aintree, before defying a seven pounds rise at Haydock, although he didn’t look remotely like winning on the run to the last when he was still five lengths down and going nowhere. He was matched at 130 in running that day, and anyone taking that price could only have been hoping the first two fell, but he was very strong on the run in and got up late. The ground was good that day, and the pace wasn’t strong, and it highlighted his vulnerability under such conditions.

Paisley Park won the Grade One Long Walk next time at Ascot, this time getting a good even pace, but he still didn’t look a likely winner on the run to the second last, and needed the test at the trip on soft ground to prevail. Last time at Cheltenham he was credited with improving by over a stone by most handicappers, but I have my doubts he improved much at all, and it was more the circumstances of a decent pace, with the front two taking each other on from a long way out, rather than any big ability jump on his part. Paisley Park gained most of his twelve length victory after the last when it was a case of the others hitting a wall. Yes he showed commendable stamina, and the time figure was good, but you’d expect it to be off that pace, and speed figures over jumps in particular, while useful, are far from facts.

If he gets another well run race with cut in the ground, then if he’s in the same form, Paisley Park will very likely win the Stayers Hurdle, but he now has a target on his head, and it would be pretty brain dead of the other jockeys to set it up for him again, although that doesn’t mean they won’t. Faster ground would also be a worry as although he clearly acts on it, as Haydock showed it can lessen the effect of his superior stamina, especially if combined with a less than even gallop.

Faugheen is eleven now and it seems a stretch to expect him to be still up to this standard. Yes he won the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown last April, but that’s almost a year ago now, and he was gifted a lead and jumped off about twelve lengths ahead of Penhill, the horse he eventually beat by thirteen lengths, and who faded late having had to be used up to catch the leader. Punchestown form at the end of the season is never the most reliable, and this particular piece has red flags all over it. He was beaten over seven lengths by Sharjah on his comeback, which was a far cry from his sixteen length win in the same race the previous season, and while he looked to be still travelling well when falling two out at Leopardstown last time, the pace was steady that day and that proves very little as to his current ability.

Supasundae was second in last years Stayers Hurdle, but despite the very steady pace he didn’t seem to get the trip, so it’s hard to see many scenarios that would see him home in front this year. Better ground might help, but he just doesn’t seem to be in the same form this year as last either.

Samcro was impressive at Cheltenham last season, but it likely wasn’t a strong race with the likes of Scarpeta only beaten eight lengths in a well run race. He always looked like he wanted to go faster last season, rather than slower, so his runs over two miles this season were very disappointing. He was found to have a lung issue after Leopardstown, but I’m not sure that explains away all his runs this season. I heard some judges claiming Leopardstown proved he needed further, which has to be about the worst attempt at race reading I’ve ever heard. It was a slowly run race, and he actually made ground travelling well in the hottest part of race, and it certainly wasn’t a lack of speed that saw him stop to nothing on turning in. Even if the issue they found explains that, and they’ve fixed it, he would still have a stamina, and ability doubt, for this race, but if he does run, he adds a bit of much needed hype to the race.

Black Op didn’t seem to get home behind Paisley Park when upped to three miles last time, and he would need to improve a good bit on his best from to have a chance too. His best chance of a place would likely be in a slowly run race.

Bapaume looked short of the top level last season, before showing much improved form with a second over three miles and one in a grade one at Auteuil, and followed that effort with a win over two miles and three in a grade two at the same track. It looked like he could be better suited to the French races, and his first two runs this season would seem to have backed that theory up, but last at Gowran he ran his best race outside of France with a fine second to Presenting Percy over two and a half miles. He stayed on well that day, and provided it’s not a bog he gets this longer trip fine. That form would give him a solid place chance in a stayers hurdle with very little depth to it.

Bacardys was strongest at the finish when winning the two mile four furlong novice hurdle at the Punchestown festival in 2017, and he looked very likely to be even better over three miles, but hasn’t really had much chance to prove that since. He went over fences last season, before going back over hurdles for this race at Cheltenham, but he found himself in a very poor position, with just one behind him, and a wall of horses in front of him, turning into the straight off what was a very steady pace. That he weaved his way through the field and was in a challenging position for a place when falling at the last was commendable, and based on that you would give him every chance in this years race. Since then he ran no race at Punchestown, but I’ll forgive any horse that the following season, and he again tried chasing without much success in his two starts this season. If he does go for this race, there is no real reason to think he won’t be as good as ever, and that would give him a good chance.

None of the others jump out but it would be worth looking at all of them in more depth when the final declarations are out, as at the moment it looks a race ripe for an upset. I started my analysis thinking I’d be hugely against Paisley Park at 2/1, but the next three in the market look even more on the short side, so he’s probably not far from the right price. I really like Bacardys each way non runner no bet at 20/1 with Black Type, and if he runs I can’t see him being anywhere near that on the day, while Bapaume looks worth a slightly smaller each way bet, again NRNB at 25/1 with Betfred and others.

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