Path To Prestbury 2019: Challengers, Young Guns and Penhill for the Stayers

Christmas can be a tiring affair.You spend what seems an eternity looking forward to the celebrations, only for it to pass by with real life beginning again in what seems a blink of an eye.

The 2018/19 jumps season has rather felt like this.

We could easily spend the next eight weeks eagerly anticipating the Cheltenham Festival, only for it pass us by – leaving us wondering what exactly had happened over the obstacles this season.

This jumps campaign has yet to catch fire at all really, with only Altior’s defeat of the teak-tough Un De Sceaux and Angel’s Breath hurdling debut producing genuine “wow” moments for me.

The lack of rain has led to unseasonably firm ground, meaning a lot of trainers have been forced to shirk early season targets, and at this point it’s very hard to be confident over any of the contenders heading into the 2019 Cheltenham festival.

However, this also leads to a more generous outlook regarding betting markets and the Stayers Hurdle looks wide open.

Despite my trepidation about the season overall, I’m feeling quite confident Penhill can repeat his impressive victory of twelve months ago.

The Challengers

Top class three-mile hurdlers seem to be at a premium at the minute.

Not one horse has really stuck their head above the parapet in the three-mile hurdling division and the top races have been thoroughly forgettable affairs.

It says it all about the lack of depth currently in the market when you consider that Apple’s Jade is currently grappling for ante-post favouritism with Penhill.

Gordon Elliott & Gigginstown simply want Cheltenham Festival winners. So, I’ve no doubt that she’ll end up in the Mares Hurdle once again.

Next up is the valiant Supasundae at 6/1, who I just don’t believe stays strongly enough to take this.

I simply cannot envisage a situation where he turns those two lengths around with Penhill from last year’s renewal.

They eye-balled each other from the second last hurdle, and despite Supasundae having ample opportunity to go past – he just wasn’t capable of it at the finish. Penhill simply outstayed him and did so comfortably.

Were he mine, Supasundae’s season would revolve around repeating his victories in the Irish & Punchestown Champion Hurdles, with the Aintree Hurdle firmly on the agenda also. The two-mile four-furlong trip there in Liverpool would be right up his street and I think he’d take some beating.

Next in the market is Laurina, and whilst I’m frantically trying to avoid playing “Willie Mullins Bingo” this year, I wonder if it is at all possible that she could rock up in the Stayers Hurdle?

As I type, I’d be keen to take her on in a Champion Hurdle, but her strong galloping nature could lend herself to a race like this, especially given how weak a renewal it is.

I do however completely understand how sorely tempted the owner would be to go for what looks a winnable Champion Hurdle. She’s obviously a much likelier runner in Tuesday’s showpiece, unless Willie Mullins decides to go down the Annie Power route once again.

Her stablemate Faugheen represents a much more likely runner and boasts serious three-mile credentials after comfortably beating Penhill at the Punchestown Festival in 2018.

Faugheen is now though a year older and it’s a simple fact that Penhill is best fresh and that’s the second time he has failed to back up a Prestbury Park win at the Punchestown festival. I don’t at all believe Faugheen met the real Penhill that day.

The metaphorical roof would come off were Faugheen able win the Stayers, and until he came asunder, he looked to be travelling with plenty of zest behind Apple’s Jade over Christmas.

It’s a head over heart decision though, and I’m happy to take on the living legend Faugheen in this.

We know where we stand with the likes of Unowhatimeanharry, Lil Rockerfeller and Sam Spinner and I’m happy enough to overlook these for win purposes at least.

Bet on The Stayers Hurdle

 
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.

Young Guns

Thankfully, we do have some new challengers to evaluate.

Paisley Park has done everything asked of him this season, and connections appear to be very excited about his Stayers Hurdle credentials. He graduated from two handicap hurdle victories, to taking the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.

He’s interesting, but I’m extremely content in my decision to take him on in this. The form of that last victory is very weak with the two market protagonists failing to finish the race and, in the end, he saw off 40/1 shot West Approach. I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t a better horse out there.

The same point stands for the likable Midnight Shadow in that the form of that Relkeel Hurdle win over Old Guard and Wholestone is not at all good enough against some of these.

I’d be shocked if Samcro ended up in this race despite his relatively low odds. It’s been a really sorrowful few months for him, and I’d nearly pull up stumps at this point and begin preparing for fences next season.

Two young guns who are very interesting if recovering from respective disappointing chasing campaigns are Black Op and Kilbricken Storm.

Kilbricken Storm won a strong Albert Bartlett hurdle last season and has every chance in this at decent odds of 20/1.

I’m begrudgingly not backing him for this however, as despite the fact that the race has worked out so well, and despite the fact that he showed how adept he is going up the famous hill – I feel he managed to steal a march coming into the second last hurdle on that occasion and the horses directly behind him just couldn’t make up the necessary ground.

I’m convinced the likes of Black Op and Penhill might just be too good for him, if they don’t allow him as much rope turning in.

I have had a small saver on Black Op for this.

Black Op was second last season to Samcro in a Neptune Novices Hurdle, won at the Aintree festival and was an agonising second at BetBright Trials day behind the much vaunted Santini.

He holds some seriously good form in respect to a race like this.

Black Op won over three miles in his younger days at a point to point at Loughanmore and everything about him has looked like he would enjoy a test like this.

Chasing hasn’t worked out so far, but if that didn’t leave a mark on him odds of 14/1 might look huge after he takes on the Cleeve Hurdle on BetBright trials day.

If taking that, he’ll be much shorter for the showdown in March.

Penhill

Penhill, twice a winner at the Cheltenham festival, is still my strong idea of the 2019 Stayers Hurdle winner.

It’s the lack of quality in this field and how devastatingly impressive he was in the Albert Bartlett and last year’s renewal that makes him a whopping bet again this year. I’m again convinced that if this horse had any prep run this season, he’d be sub 2/1.

Firstly, Penhill was simply brilliant last year.

He was held out the back, travelled smoothly and was always holding Supasundae at the finish. He made it look quite easy and can make it a third festival victory in three attempts this coming March.

Thereafter, once again, he flopped at the Punchestown festival behind Faugheen somewhat when finishing a distance second. He did the same in 2017 after his equally impressive Albert Bartlett win.

He’s better fresh, it’s a simple as that and Willie Mullins has altered his training campaign to completely revolve around the festival.

I still cannot believe how unheralded that performance was back in 2017 when he waltzed to victory in the Albert Bartlett. Paul Townend and Penhill performed miracles to win, from a near impossible position.

Two hurdles out, and Penhill was one of a plethora of horses going well. To get a position, Paul Townend reluctantly brought his charge about 9 horses wide, when The Worlds End (also going very well) came down. This knocked Penhill another few strides out and temporarily halted his momentum.

That wouldn’t stop him though as he just seemed to drop down the afterburners and made up ferocious ground to catch Monalee and power away to win by three and a half lengths easily.

Watch the race and focus on him, it’s a truly brilliant performance.

I note that some folk question the fact these races were slowly run renewals run to suit Willie Mullins’ charge and that he was found out in more strongly run races at Punchestown.

I don’t agree completely with that, I feel it’s just simply that team Closutton have found that this horse is simply best fresh and are training him to peak in March. I think a strong pace to aim at will only suit him more at Prestbury Park. He’s the ideal horse to have going into the World Cup of Jumps racing.

Ground is no concern and all it will take is one positive mention from team Mullins at a Cheltenham Preview night for his price to start collapsing in what looks a poor renewal.

Penhill is a Cheltenham horse” and as we know, festival horses win at the festival.

Sometimes it’s that simple.

Recommendations

2 Pts Win Penhill 5/1
0.50 Pts E/W Black Op 14/1

Bet on The Stayers Hurdle

 
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.

The post Path To Prestbury 2019: Challengers, Young Guns and Penhill for the Stayers appeared first on BetBright Blog.

Original source: https://blog.betbright.com/horse-racing/path-to-prestbury-2019-challengers-young-guns-and-penhill-for-the-stayers/

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