The Stayers Hurdle - Simply Unpredictable, or is it?

From Dark Horses to Veteran Champions: Navigating Cheltenham's Most Unpredictable Race

Sire Du Berlais winning under the famous JP McManus colours.
Sire Du Berlais winning under the famous JP McManus colours.

Back in the day, the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle was pretty much a sure thing – you had legends like Inglis Drever and Big Buck's showing up and nabbing the win without breaking a sweat. But things have gotten a lot more unpredictable since 2013, with winners usually coming in with odds over 14-1.

Take last year, for instance, when Sire Du Berlais pulled off a win as an 11-year-old, something no horse had done in a championship race at Cheltenham since 2005. And it's not just him; plenty of winners have been dark horses coming straight out of handicaps.

Now, there's no saying if this trend's gonna stick, especially with Gordon Elliott rolling in with two heavy hitters, Teahupoo and Irish Point, both decked out in Robcour colors. These two have been killing it in the big races, with Irish Point turning heads with his win at the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. He's right up there with Teahupoo in the odds, but remember, that race was a slow one, and the Stayers' Hurdle? It's a whole different beast, more like a battle of endurance.

Teahupoo tried and fell short last year despite a big win leading up to the festival. Though he's coming in fresher this time, he's got stiff competition, even from within his own team.

Enter Crambo, the new kid on the block in British staying hurdles, jumping from a loss in a handicap to beating Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Long Walk at Ascot. He's proven he's got the stamina, but his odds are getting tight, especially when you compare him to Paisley Park, who's got tons of experience at Cheltenham and is sitting at 16-1.

Everyone loves Paisley Park, and a win for him would be a crowd-pleaser for sure, especially after his near misses this year. But he's 12 years old, and that's a bit of a concern for me. I'm also skeptical about Sir Gerhard's chances to stay the course.

Monkfish and Noble Yeats aren't out of the picture after their recent trial wins, but I'm thinking it might be smart to take a chance on some long shots with the non-runner no bet deal – specifically, Good Time Jonny and Home By The Lee. Both are solid stayers with a good track record at Cheltenham.

Good Time Jonny, in particular, might head for a handicap chase instead, but fences haven't really been his thing. Remember, this guy made a spectacular comeback to win the Pertemps last year. And Home By The Lee? He's had a couple of strong finishes in the Stayers' Hurdle despite some setbacks.

Both of these horses have shown they can hang with the best, so overlooking them just because of their odds might be a mistake.