It really does seem to be a case of “lucky seven” in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham nowadays.
Seven-year-olds have won the last four runnings of the long-distance championship, with Paisley Park following Penhill and Nichols Canyon on the roll of honour.
And they had a one-two this March, when 50-1 shot Lisnagar Oscar got the better of his contemporary Ronald Pump (20-1) in a race that had bookmakers cheering a heck of a lot louder than punters.
Could Thyme Hill be the one to keep the run going next spring? Trainer Philip Hobbs certainly thinks that he might be – and the 16-1 currently available about his chance could look huge value in 11 months time.
Of course, the promising youngster has much more going for him than just the year he was foaled.
He has made a hugely promising start to his hurdling career, completing a hat-trick by landing the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury last winter.
He got no luck in running when a close fourth to Monkfish in the 3m Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and that effort has encouraged Hobbs to delay a switch to fences.
“He’s been getting better with each run over hurdles and he was possibly unlucky at Cheltenham,” the trainer said. “There’s no reason why he should be in the top grade of staying hurdlers.
“It’s very likely he’ll stay over hurdles with the Stayers’ Hurdle in mind. He’s schooled very well over fences but I think we’ll delay chasing for 12 months.
“We thought long and hard about what trip we were going to run him over at Cheltenham but unless the ground was desperate we were going to go up to three miles and as it turned out he was staying on extremely well, he just got stopped twice at the wrong time.”