With the Cheltenham Festival creeping ever closer, the hunt continues for Festival ‘good things’ who will be lining up at Prestbury Park come March. The Cleeve Hurdle is the biggest trial for the Stayer’s Hurdle, with previous winners including Inglis Dreever, Reve De Sivola, Big Bucks, Saphir Du Rheu, Thistlecrack and most recently Unowhatimeanharry. With so many brilliant horses listed, it’s a race to keep a very close eye on for the future. The 2018 renewal is no exception and as with all the big races, we’ve gone digging for trends that we can find to help deduce the winner.
- A race for all ages – No age group has been able to dominate this contest, with the most winners coming from 6 to 9 range
- Prestbury Park knowledge is crucial – Nine of the past fourteen renewals have been won by a horse who had previous winning form at Cheltenham
- Follow the market – Seven of the past fourteen renewals have been won by the favourite
- Going the distance – Since 2004, seven renewals have been won by horses with a win at this distance
From the trends there are two very interesting horses, the first of which being Wholestone. He is a course and distance winner over the three mile distance and won his fourth race at this venue when last seen in the Relkeel. The other horse is Agrapart, who is also a Grade 2 scorer at this course and flew home behind that aforementioned rival last time in the Relkeel. He promises to be suited by this step up in trip and he remains with potential.
The Cleeve Hurdle has been the major trial for the Stayer’s Hurdle for many years now and the antepost favourite is the Colin Tizzard trained Finian’s Oscar. One of the leading novice hurdlers last season, he was disappointing over fences in four runs where his jumping let him down. He now returns to hurdling upped to the three mile distance for the first time, which would be a negative in terms of the trends. Seven previous renewals have been won by horses with a win at this trip and although he shapes as though he’ll stay, he does still have it to prove. The highest priced winner of this race 2010 was 11/4, so being the favourite is certainly in his advantage.
Course and distance form is a huge feather in any horses cap in terms of this race and Wholestone is in fact a previous Grade 2 winner here. He was back to form when winning the Relkeel on his latest start and he will be suited by this step back up in distance. He beat Agrapart that day, but he may struggle to hold that form back up to this distance. Agrapart was badly outpaced in the Relkeel before staying on powerfully up the hill, with a return to this course and distance promising to suit him massively. As a previous Cheltenham winner who does have experience at staying distances, he fits the trends perfectly.
It will be a very emotional day if Beer Goggles follows up his Long Distance Hurdle success with a win in this contest, after the extremely sad news of the pass of Richard Woollacott. The seven year old does lack Cheltenham experience which is a worry, but he stays further than this and if continuing his progressive vein of form he’s not one to discount.
Of the remainder, multiple course scorer Thomas Campbell was slightly disappointment in the Long Walk when last seen, but he’s won over course and distance, scoring twice at this venue in total. This is easier than his latest assignment, but he does need to reverse form with The Worlds End, whose only previous visit to this venue resulted in a crashing fall in the Albert Bartlett. His latest start was a step in the right direction and a replication of that form would see him go close for a place. L’Ami Serge warrants a mention as he certainly has the form to be involved and he was ahead of these two aforementioned rivals at Ascot last time. As always, the worry with him is his constitution in a battle, as he usually puts his head up and refuses to go forward when ridden.
By Owen Goulding.