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Cheltenham Festival Race Previews: Stayers Hurdle

Will the star of the staying hurdle division retain his crown?

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2EB59DC Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 14, 2019 Aidan Coleman celebrates on Paisley Park after winning the 3.30 Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Following the news of Thyme Hill’s withdrawal, Paisley Park has a date with destiny in the Stayers Hurdle.

After winning the 2019 edition of the race, Emma Lavelle’s star could only manage to finish seventh the following year.

It was found out later on that the nine-year-old had an irregular heartbeat, which gave answers to his underwhelming performance.

Paisley Park has bounced back since that defeat last season, finishing second in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury before making late headway to win the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle by a neck.

Paisley Park, Thyme Hill and Roksana in the Long Grade 1 Walk Hurdle at Ascot Racecourse in December 2020
Thyme Hill will not reoppose Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle, it was confirmed on Friday

The gelding looks to be back at his best, and is clearly the one to beat here.

Dual Pertemps Final winner Sire Du Berlais lines up for Denise Foster, with hopes that the nine-year-old could land a festival hat-trick for the County Meath yard.

He is joined by stablemates The Storyteller, who has been consistent over both hurdles and fences this season, and Celebration Hurdle winner Fury Road.

Improving sort Flooring Porter makes the trip across the Irish Sea for Gavin Cromwell, with an impressive Grade 1 success under his belt already.

Flooring Porter landed Grade 1 success for Gavin Cromwell at Leopardstown in December

The five-year-old stunned Denise Foster’s trio of entrants here in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle, bolting up by six lengths.

His trainer is very capable of preparing his yard for big contest, with the late Espoir D’Allen springing a surprise for Cromwell in the 2019 Champion Hurdle.

A versatile runner, Flooring Porter could well have the ability to take on Paisley Park here.

Dan Skelton may be considering Roksana for this race instead of the Mares’ Hurdle following the withdrawal of Thyme Hill, while last year’s shock winner Lisnagar Oscar ran an impressive second in the Rendlesham Hurdle following wind surgery.

No crowd, but will it be another Cheltenham Festival with a Sire Du Berlais win in this year’s Stayers’ Hurdle?

Boyne Hurdle victor Beacon Edge and stablemate Diol Ker are both entered under Noel Meade, while 2017 runner-up Lil Rockerfella heads to the Festival for potentially the final time.

This is arguably Paisley Park’s race to lose, but he will need to fend off some interesting competition to regain his crown.

BEST SELECTIONS:
lisnagar oscar sprung an almighty shock in the 2020 stayers hurdle last year [racing tv]

Read our race previews for the remaining two Grade One’s on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the Marsh Novices’ Chase and Ryanair Chase.

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