Tag Archive for: Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

Sire Du Berlais is a Festival hero once again

Sire Du Berlais ground down Dashel Drasher late on in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle as the big-race outsiders fought out a thrilling finish to the Cheltenham Festival’s day three feature.

At one stage it looked as if Flooring Porter was about to join the Festival immortals and secure his third straight victory in the race, but his tank emptied quicker than in the previous two years and he was passed heading to the last by Dashel Drasher who set sail for home in the hands of Rex Dingle.

A length to the good jumping the final flight, Jeremy Scott’s admirable 10-year-old stuck his head down as the Gordon Elliott-trained pair of Sire Du Berlais and Teahupoo were breathing down his neck.

But while the 5-2 favourite could not get by in the hands of Davy Russell, Dashel Drasher had no answer to the late thrust of the JP McManus-owned 33-1 shot who edged his way to a three-quarters of a length verdict.

Dashel Drasher was a brave second at 40-1 and Teahupoo a further neck back in third – but there was a change to the placings in the stewards’ room as it was deemed Dashel Drasher had caused interference at the last that was sufficient to deny Teahupoo second spot.

A runner-up behind Flooring Porter in this in 2021 and also a dual winner of the Pertemps in both 2019 and 2020, the 11-year-old Sire Du Berlais was somewhat the forgotten horse of the race and handed Cullentra House handler Elliott his first victory in this premier staying hurdling contest.

Elliott said: “After a hurdle or two I knew he was in a good rhythm. Of course it’s a surprise, but Sire Du Berlais can do that – he’s either first or last.

“He stayed on well up the hill in fairness to him and Mark (Walsh) gave him a brilliant ride.

Connections with Sire Du Berlais
Connections with Sire Du Berlais (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It’s great to win the race. We were beaten a short head in a Grade One yesterday (with Gerri Colombe), but it’s a great game and it’s great to be here.

“We couldn’t get him qualified for the Pertemps Final. It just didn’t work out for us with ground one day and he probably didn’t look that well handicapped.

“He doesn’t do anything too exciting as he minds himself, but that’s why he’s still going at his age.

“I thought Teahupoo would win. He travelled into it and ran well.”

Walsh has had a bad run of luck with injuries but made it back in time for Cheltenham.

“It was a bit of a rush to get back, but thankfully I got back with the help of all the surgeons and doctors,” he said. “I fractured vertebrae in my neck at the Dublin Racing Festival, but it healed quick so I’m back.

“He is brilliant and he loves this place. He never knows when he is beaten. A good gallop suited and he travelled great for him, as usually he can be on and off the bridle but he travelled great and jumped great.

“Gordon had him spot on today so all credit to him. He loves it around here and he is a joy to ride so it is brilliant to win on him.

“They always say horses for courses and he loves it here and it is great to get a big one on him today. I’m delighted he was able to be here and take part in this and win it. It is great to get another big one at the Festival.”

McManus said: “I thought he ran well in Navan the last day as he was giving a lot of weight away and was running on well at the end. I thought he deserved to take his chance.

JP McManus and Gordon Elliott
JP McManus and Gordon Elliott (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I’ve not had too many 33-1 winners here. Creon won at a big price, as did Kadoun (both 50-1 in the Pertemps Final). This fellow I’m afraid went unbacked! We’ll enjoy it just the same.

“Gordon has done some job on the horse. We were kind of training him for the Pertemps, but he didn’t get qualified and as a result he was in the Stayers’.

“I must say I thought he had a little chance and after the last I felt he would run up the hill well and give it his lot.”

Scott, speaking before Dashel Drasher was placed third, said: “We came here but we weren’t necessarily thinking we belonged here as we hadn’t had the easiest lead into the race, but he just started bouncing again so we came.

“I’m delighted. Obviously I would have loved to have finished in the other spot, but I’m very proud of him.

“It’s the first time my wife has come to watch him and she bred him and quite frankly does most of the training so it was lovely to have her here.”

Russell said of Teahupoo: “He jumped great, he missed the second-last but I didn’t need it as I wasn’t under pressure.

“I just couldn’t get upsides Dashel Drasher in the straight, he kept going left then right and if I’d got upsides him I might have been all right.

“Off the back of the last he just kept going the same pace but he’s run a lovely race, he’s only six. I’d say Gordon’s a lot happier with this result than I am!”

Gavin Cromwell said of the defending champion Flooring Porter: “He looked his old self, he went a right good gallop, Danny (Mullins) just felt he couldn’t get a breather into him but he ran a good, solid race.

“He ran a gallant race, five or six weeks ago it wasn’t looking like we’d be here but the last three weeks I was confident he’d run a solid race.”

Blazing Khal steps up for Stayers’ task after troubled prep

Blazing Khal faces his toughest task yet at Cheltenham on Thursday when he attempts to extend his five-race winning streak in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

His participation in the day three feature has been a hot topic of discussion in the build up to the Festival and one that intensified once trainer Charles Byrnes revealed the seven-year-old suffered a cut during his impressive comeback victory in the Boyne Hurdle – subsequently facing a race against time to secure his place in the field.

The Ballynoe Stables handler is relieved to be in touching distance of getting Blazing Khal to the start line for his first run in Grade One company.

“It’s been well documented, his preparation, but I can’t change anything. That’s gone and we have him here and we can now just hope for the best,” said Byrnes.

“We’re pleased to get him here, we would have preferred a better preparation, but we will make the most of it and hope the horse and jockey come back safe.

“He’s beat lesser company so far and it’s a big step up to Grade One company from what he has been up against, but we will try to make the most of it.”

Blazing Khal will be ridden by Byrnes’ son Philip as the trainer bids for a second Stayers’ Hurdle victory following Solwhit 10 years ago.

Blazing Khal on the way to winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2021
Blazing Khal on the way to winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2021 (David Davies/PA)

“It’s a massive day and a massive family occasion,” continued Ballingarry-based Byrnes.

“But as far as we’re concerned, there is no pressure as he hasn’t had the ideal preparation and we’re here and hoping more than anything.

“It would be lovely to win it again, but Solwhit was an exceptional horse. He won eight Grade Ones while Blazing Khal is yet to win one. They don’t make Solwhits too often.”

Blazing Khal will have to lower the colours of Flooring Porter, who after his own struggles to make the Festival, returns to his old stomping ground looking for a third-straight victory in Thursday’s main event.

“He’s had an interrupted preparation, but we’re pretty happy with him and hopefully he can run a big race,” said trainer Gavin Cromwell.

Jockey Danny Mullins celebrates on Flooring Porter after winning the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022
Jockey Danny Mullins celebrates on Flooring Porter after winning the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022 (Steven Paston/PA)

“He knows how to win around the track which is a big positive. It’s not going to be an easy task, it’s a very good renewal of the race and we’re probably a little bit up against it, but he is the horse who has the form in the race.

“Everyone is very excited now and looking forward to it.”

Teahupoo was the first horse to down Honeysuckle when capturing the Hatton’s Grace earlier this season and followed up by winning Gowran’s Galmoy Hurdle to put himself firmly in the Stayers’ Hurdle mix.

“We were trying to make him a quicker horse than he is last year running over two miles, but he looks to have found his niche over longer trips,” said trainer Gordon Elliott, who also saddles 2021 runner-up Sire Du Berlais.

Teahupoo will bid to give Gordon Elliott his first win in the Stayers' Hurdle
Teahupoo will bid to give Gordon Elliott his first win in the Stayers’ Hurdle (Niall Carson/PA)

“If you’d spoken to me this time last year, I’d have said he had a squeak in the Champion Hurdle, but he was just run off his feet.

“He’s a good horse and Davy (Russell, jockey) said he’s better for knowing. He said he got there too soon the last day, as he’s so relaxed and then he grabs hold and goes.

“He’s a young horse on the way up. He was good in the Hatton’s Grace and he was equally as good in Gowran.

“He’s a fair horse. He doesn’t do anything exciting at home, but he seems to do it on the track.”

The Irish challenge is further strengthened by Joseph O’Brien’s Home By The Lee, who accounted for a useful cast in Navan’s Lismullen Hurdle before proving that was no fluke when running out a three-length winner of the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

“He goes there with a big chance. He is fit and well and his preparation has gone great,” said O’Brien.

“We are looking forward to the race. It looks a really strong Stayers’ Hurdle this year, but we are right in the mix.

“He likes being fresh, so it was always the plan to go straight from Christmas to Cheltenham.”

Ashdale Bob was runner-up to Home By The Lee in the Christmas Hurdle and is another raider from the Emerald Isle in the line up along with Willie Mullins’ former Festival hero Klassical Dream, while there is a continental flavour to the contest with two runners from France taking part.

Gabriel Leenders’ Gold Tweet caused an upset when romping to Cleeve Hurdle success on Festival Trials Day and he is joined by Hugo Merienne’s Henri Le Farceur.

“He jumps his hurdles very fast and he’s a very strong horse. He’s not big, but he’s very strong and if we follow (the pace) he’ll have a fast finish, which is perfect for an English race,” said Leenders.

“We’ve trained him for every possibility and if the race is fast or steady, it’s not a problem. The jockey will keep relaxed and it won’t be a problem, he will be ready.”

Merienne added: “Henri Le Farceur likes the distance and I think he’ll like the track. It’s a challenge but we’ll see. He’ll need to come and improve but we will try.

“We were actually thinking about whether to go to Kempton over Christmas, but the horse had a hard race at Auteuil and we gave him a few weeks off. When Gold Tweet won, the horse was in really good form and back in training and we thought we’d come over.

“There’s a lot of French trainers who’ve won in England and a few have come here already, it’s like a dream to come here. It’s like the World Cup and we’ll try our best.”

There are just two British-trained contenders – Dashel Drasher and Paisley Park – who were second and third respectively behind Gold Tweet in the Cleeve.

Emma Lavelle believes she has her 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle hero in top form ahead of his fifth run in the race and is crossing her fingers the popular 11-year-old can roll back the years.

She said: “He’s amazing to keep pulling it out the bag the way he has over the year and he certainly seems in good order.

Paisley Park is an ever-present in the Stayers' Hurdle
Paisley Park is an ever-present in the Stayers’ Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

“It looks a competitive renewal, but we know he loves Cheltenham, we know he loves that course and, touch wood, he has had a good preparation since his run in the Cleeve. Hopefully there will be plenty of pace and we see him flying up the hill at the finish.

“The ground is a positive for him in that it will probably slow the others up a bit, but to be honest I don’t think he really cares too much about the ground. He doesn’t like that really tacky ground, but outside of that he’s quite happy with whatever is thrown at him.

“It would a phenomenal achievement (to win the race again), but he has done us so proud over the years and has won a Grade One this year. Fingers crossed he can show us all what he is capable of.”

Scott tempted by Stayers’ Hurdle for versatile Dashel Drasher

A tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle has crept into the equation for Dashel Drasher following his game effort in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Jeremy Scott’s versatile 10-year-old has mixed and matched fences and hurdles with real success of late, winning on his reappearance over timber at Aintree before finishing second to Grand National winner Noble Yeats on a first try at three miles in the Many Clouds Chase when returned to Merseyside the following month.

Keen to keep things fresh for the 11-time winner, the son of Passing Glance was returned to the smaller objects for his latest assignment, leading the field along for the majority of the two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two and only succumbing to the superior turn of foot of the winner, Marie’s Rock, in the closing stages.

However, what pleased Scott most about the performance was how his stable star bravely battled back for second once headed by First Street up the run-in and it is convincing the Higher Holworthy Farm handler that three miles is worth further exploration – something which could lead to an outing in the Paddy Power-sponsored Stayers’ Hurdle in March.

“I thought it was a great run, I couldn’t have been happier really without winning a race,” said Scott.

“He had a lot of decent horses in behind him and I think we’ve got half an idea that we will up him to three miles over hurdles and possibly look at running him in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

“He isn’t quite quick enough over the two and a half miles and he certainly didn’t have the turn of foot the winner had. But it was really pleasing how he fought back and beat the second horse having been headed and I think it shows an awful lot of guts, which is a very admirable feature in a racehorse.

“He got the trip OK up at Aintree and the more we run him this season the more he seems to see it out OK. His cruising speed would hopefully put one or two under pressure.”

Scott is still to decide how Dashel Drasher prepares for a possible run at the Festival, with a course-and-distance sighter in the Cleeve Hurdle (January 28) an option, but also a return to fences for the Betfair Ascot Chase (February 18) he won in 2021.

Dashel Drasher could return to his beloved Ascot to complete his Cheltenham Festival preparations
Dashel Drasher could return to his beloved Ascot to complete his Cheltenham Festival preparations (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He continued: “We could go back chasing and I’m not worried about going chasing, but that division could be stronger at the moment. We’ll see how he comes out of this race and our original plan was to have a run in the Cleeve and see how he got on over three miles.

“That might come a bit soon, but we also have the option of going back over fences at Ascot – give him a break now and run in the Graded race he’s won before. Then go to Cheltenham after that if it all worked out.

“We will very much see how he comes out of this race, he’s absolutely fine this morning and I think he has thoroughly enjoyed his experience at Cheltenham.”