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Stayers Hurdle Entries
Sat, Dec 31st, 2016

US star Rawnaq on course for Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle
Thursday, January 19, 2017 – US challenger Rawnaq features among 47 entries, the third-highest level in the last 11 runnings, for the £300,000 Grade One Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham on the third day of The Festival, St Patrick's Thursday, March 16.

The Cyril Murphy-trained Rawnaq is going for a US$500,000 bonus after defeating European raiders Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon (both Willie Mullins IRE) in the three-mile Grade One Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle, part of the first Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge, at Percy Warner Park, Nashville, on fast going in May.

The terms of the Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge, brought in to revive transatlantic competition, are simple: win both the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle and the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle within a year's time to claim the bonus. Altogether, the purses and bonus would approach US$1-million in total winnings.

Rawnaq followed up his Iroquois Hurdle success with victory in the G1 Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills in October, when partnered by Ruby Walsh, and was second on his latest start in the G1 Colonial Cup at Camden in November.

The 10-year-old, who runs in the colours of Irvin Naylor, was previously trained in Ireland by Matthew Smith and already has experience at The Festival, having finished third in the 2015 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate over fences. He was also third in 2013 Greatwood Hurdle at The Open.

Trainer Cyril Murphy, who is based in Maryland, said: "It is so far so good with Rawnaq. After he ran in November, we left him alone for a month and then started to pick him up again before Christmas.

"He did a piece of work last week and did another bit on Tuesday, and everything seems to be moving in the right direction for us.

"Rawnaq has been very solid. We bought him hoping he could be a Grade One horse but to go and do what he did last year and win two of them was great.

"He got beat the last day, which was disappointing for everybody, but in hindsight I think the ground was even firmer than we wanted. He just didn't have a cut at the fences.

"Ruby Walsh rode him in October and was impressed. He made himself available to us after Jack Doyle got injured and that said enough to me as he was behind us on Nichols Canyon in the Iroquois. I asked Ruby if he felt we could finish in the first four or five in Cheltenham and he said he would not put us off chasing the bonus because it is an open year in the stayers' division.

"The horse has run well over fences and hurdles at Cheltenham, so we know the track doesn't hold any fears. He is not ground dependent either as he won a good race on testing ground in Ireland.

"At the moment, the plan is to leave here either on February 3 or February 6 to arrive in England the following day. It is a 12-hour drive from our place to Huntsville airport in Alabama, then he has a direct flight to Stansted and finally a road trip to Neil Mulholland's [in Somerset] where he will be based. You are looking at about 36 hours door to door.

"I worked with Neil Mulholland for a period of time at Nicky Henderson's. We lost contact in the interim but we got back in contact through an existing owner of his who lives and follows the racing out here. Before Nicky's, I was with Sir Mark Prescott for four years and then a conditional jockey with Bill Turner for four years. I rode 13 winners from about 200 rides.

"If everything goes right, the hope at the moment to give Rawnaq a prep race in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on February 26.

"Jack Doyle is going to ride him. He won on him in his first two starts last year and would have ridden him in his last two starts but for getting injured. It was always the plan for Jack to ride him if he was available because he obviously knows the horse and has experience around Cheltenham."

Rawnaq is a 33/1 chance with Sun Bets. Last year's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle hero Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry) is the 5/2 favourite after extending his winning streak to seven with a four and a half-length beating of Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King) in the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Unowhatimeanharry's owner J P McManus has six entries in total. They also include 2014 scorer More Of That, multiple G1 winner Jezki (Jessica Harrington IRE), set to make his comeback shortly, and Yanworth (Alan King).

Willie Mullins, who has yet to win the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle, is responsible for 10 of 19 Irish entries and, along with Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon, has also put in the last two winners of the Stan James Champion Hurdle in Faugheen and Annie Power.

Other high-profile contenders include the 2015 winner Cole Harden (Warren Greatrex) and the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained pair of Ballyoptic and The New One.

Sun Bets Head of PR Tim Reynolds said: "It is great to see so many high-class horses in the race. Unowhatimeanharry's story is a remarkable one and on this season's form he is the standout staying hurdler and worthy favourite."

Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle – Sun Bet prices:
5/2 Unowhatimeanharry; 4/1 Faugheen; 7/1 Vroum Vroum Mag; 8/1 Nichols Canyon; 10/1 Annie Power; 12/1 Clondaw Warrior, Jezki; 14/1 Ballyoptic; 16/1 Apples Jade, Shaneshill, Snow Falcon, Yanworth; 18/1 The New One; 20/1 Lil Rockerfeller, One Track Mind; 25/1 Ptit Zig; 28/1 Wicklow Brave; 30/1 Milsean; 33/1 Agrapart, Cole Harden, De Plotting Shed, Footpad, Ivanovich Gorbatov, Mister Miyagi, More Of That, Rawnaq, Shantou Village, Un Temps Pour Tout; 40/1 Dedigout, Diakali, Kotkikova, West Approach, Zarkandar; 50/1 Camping Ground, Reve De Sivola, The Romford Pele; 66/1 Monksland, Old Guard, Ordo Ab Chao, Shantou Bob, Taquin Du Seuil, Whiteout; 100/1 Anteros, Born Survivor, Henri Parry Morgan, Supasundae; 150/1 Three Musketeers
Each-way 1/4 odds, 1-2-3

Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle Facts & Figures
BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Stayers' Hurdle, known as the World Hurdle between 2005 and 2016, was introduced with the current race conditions in 1972. Before that, the equivalent race was known as the Spa Hurdle. Foot and mouth disease controls caused the abandonment of the race in 2001.

The Stayers' Hurdle has been run on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of The Festival. It moved to its current Thursday slot in 1993.

The first year of sponsorship was 1972, under the title of the Lloyds Bank Hurdle. There have been three other sponsors of the race - Waterford Crystal from 1978 to 1990, Bonusprint from 1991 to 2004, Ladbrokes from 2005 to 2015 and Ryanair 2016. Sun Bets has taken over sponsorship for 2017. Prize money currently stands at £300,000.

BIGGEST FIELD

The most runners to have participated was 22, seen in both 1985 and 1990. The current safety limit is 24. The smallest number of horses to line up was eight in 1973.

MULTIPLE WINNERS

Big Buck's created history in 2012 when becoming the first four-time winner. He was also successful in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but injury ruled him out of challenging in 2013. He was fifth on his final racecourse appearance in the 2014 renewal.

The only triple winner is Inglis Drever, the winner in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

There have been three dual winners - Crimson Embers (1982 & 1986), Galmoy (1987 & 1988), and Baracouda (2002 & 2003).

MOST SUCCESSFUL OWNER

The Stewart Family, owner of four-time winner Big Buck's, is the most successful owner.

MOST SUCCESSFUL TRAINER

Paul Nicholls, victorious with Big Buck's in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, is the most successful trainer with four wins.

MOST SUCCESSFUL JOCKEY

Ruby Walsh, who partnered Big Buck's to each of his four victories, is the most successful jockey.

MARES

Two mares have succeeded – Rose Ravine (1985) and Shuil Ar Aghaidh (1993).

BETTING

A total of 15 favourites have won in the 44 runnings (34 per cent).

The biggest shock was provided by A Kinsman, a 50/1 chance when scoring in 1983.

At the other end of the scale, Big Buck's was the shortest-priced winner at 5/6 for his 2010 and 2012 victories.

GREYS

One grey has succeeded - Iris's Gift in 2004.

AGE

The oldest winner was Crimson Embers, aged 11 at the time of his second success in 1986.

The youngest winners have been six-year-olds Cole Harden (2015), More Of That (2014) Big Buck's (2009), My Way De Solzen (2006), Inglis Drever (2005), Bacchanal (2000), Cyborgo (2006), Dorans Pride (1995),
Trapper John (1990), Rose Ravine (1985), Derring Rose (1981), Mountrivers (1980), Lighter (1979), Flame
Gun (1978) and Town Ship (1977).
The overall breakdown by age is as follows: 6yo – 15 wins
7yo – 11 wins 8yo – 11 wins 9yo – 6 wins 11yo – 1 win

RECORD TIME

5m 36.60s, set by Bacchanal in 2000.

OVERSEAS-TRAINED WINNERS

IRELAND (10): Brown Lad (1975); Bit Of A Jig (1976); Flame Gun (1978); Mountrivers (1980); Galmoy (1987
& 1988); Trapper John (1990); Shuil Ar Aghaidh (1993); Dorans Pride (1995) and Solwhit (2013).

FRANCE (2): Baracouda (2002 & 2003).

DID YOU KNOW?

The race was dominated in the mid-1980s by Crimson Embers, trained by Fulke Walwyn, who won in 1982 and 1986. Indeed, Crimson Embers would have been awarded the race in the stewards' room in 1985 had his rider not declined to give evidence to the enquiry afterwards, but the trainer won the race anyway with Rose Ravine. The owner, Sally Smart, was ambivalent about the result - she owned both horses!

Gaye Chance, the winner in 1984, was a full-brother to the 1983 Champion Hurdle winner Gaye Brief. Both horses were trained by Mercy Rimell.

No horse has won both the Stan James Champion Hurdle and the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle, under its current conditions as a level weights contest. Two horses won the Champion Hurdle and subsequently landed the Stayers' Hurdle's predecessor, the Spa Hurdle, which was run with penalty clauses – Clair Soleil in 1955 & 1959, plus Merry Deal in 1957 & 1962.

The three-time winner Inglis Drever was partnered by different jockeys for each of his victories – Graham Lee (2005), Paddy Brennan (2007) and Denis O'Regan (2008).

No horse has won both the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle and the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, but it looks like the impressive 2016 scorer of the former, Thistlecrack, will attem

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