Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade One)
15:05 Cheltenham 18/03
This race looks set to be as epic a contest as ever. We have Paisley Park who before having issues in this last year finishing midfield, looked unbeatable. He comes here after two brilliant matches against Thyme Hill, last years Albert Bartlett fourth, they are currently 1-1 in the clash and can only be expected to be close again this year. After these in the market we have Sire Du Berlais back to back Pertemps winner. Kemboy is having a tilt at this after not running his race in the last two renewals of the Gold Cup, of the back of a win in the Irish Gold Cup. The second that day, The Storyteller, has improved this season winning three times and coming second in a mixture of chases and hurdles races. He has a grade one and a grade three to his name with two second places at grade one most recently. We also have the winner of one of those races, Flooring Porter as well as last years winner of this race Lisnagar Oscar.
Of the ones nearer the top of the market I would side with Paisley Park over Thyme Hill, they are closely matched and it may end up coming down to the jockeys. The first race in the grade two long distance hurdle, Thyme Hill stayed on well and Paisley was left with too much to do. Paisley was carrying three pounds more that day. At level weights in the long walk next time out Thyme Hill got to the front heading to the last and Paisley stayed on strongly with his customary late burst winning by a head. Last years Bartlett was a particularly strong renewal, but Thyme Hill was outstayed up the hill and I can see that playing into Paisley’s hands. You can get 10/3 on Paisley and I’ll be having a 1pt win bet on him.
One who I think seems to have been over looked is Noel Meade’s Diol Ker. His first start was perhaps one of the best bumpers in terms of quality. He came fifth that day behind Assemble who has been contesting grade one chases this year; Jason The Militant who most recently won a grade three and also finished just half a length behind Abacadabras in a grade one; and in first that day was Envoi Allen. The next twice he ran in a couple of maiden hurdles placing on both occasions before finally getting her head in front against none other than Monkfish, winning by seven lengths! After being off for nearly a year he returned for a chasing campaign, falling first time out then finishing third to Assemble and then a fourth to Monkfish. Perhaps not suited to chasing, he was sent back over hurdles winning once over two and a half and then contesting the grade two Galmoy Hurdle over three miles. He was unlucky that day having come strongly to win the race he ended up being hampered, losing momentum and finishing a head second to Sam's Profile. On that form and a beating of Monkfish on his final hurdles start last year is enough to convince me to have a small go each way at 33/1. Some of the bookies may end up paying 4 places on the day and I’ll be waiting until then to place it, but I think he has been over looked here.
Paisley Park 10/3 1pt win
Diol Ker 33/1 0.5pts each way