Ante Post – Stayers Hurdle

With the Cheltenham Festival now only a month away, my penultimate look at the ante-post markets focuses on possibly the least loved of the championship races. Recent times have been dominated by specialist horses such as Baracouda, Inglis Drever, and of course Big Bucks who ran up a sequence of four in a row between 2009 and 2012.

The Wife tells me that I have a tendency to waffle, so I shall get straight to the point. Back Agrapart each way at 33/1. That was the executive summary, so you could leave it at that, or carry on reading the waffle below for the reasons behind my choice.

The value selection for the Stayers Hurdle

6/4 favourite Unowhatimeanharry has been a revelation since joining Harry Fry, winning eight from eight including the Albert Bartlett at the Festival last year. I saw him win in virtually unraceable conditions at Exeter a year ago, so we know he stays and is tough. But on a line through the admirable yardstick that is Cole Harden there is simply no reason for the huge discrepancy in price between him and Agrapart.

Agrapart gave Cole Harden four pounds and a seven length beating in the Relkeel on New Year’s Day, whereas Unowhatimeanharry gave him eight pounds and a two length beating in the Cleeve four weeks later. Admittedly the Relkeel was over half a mile shorter, but when you are backing 33/1 shots you want to find reasons for the horse to improve, and there are several with my selection.

Agrapart is only six so is open to more improvement than the nine year old favourite. He has never raced over three miles but certainly shapes as though it will suit and has won over the New Course. He seems to prefer soft ground, but the same could be said of Unowhatimeanharry and Cheltenham will probably water both courses in the run up to the Festival as, despite a wet winter, they always feel duty bound to err on the side of caution.

Of the others, Cole Harden and Lil Rockerfella are both shorter than Agrapart which makes no sense given the results outlined above. Many of the Irish challengers hold multiple entries and their formlines fall in a bit of a heap. So I’m happy to stick with the Nick Williams gelding who only has this target at the Festival.

Agrapart is due to run this weekend and a good performance could see his Festival odds tumble, so I would get involved now before the 33/1 with Hills and SportingBet disappears. He is named after a champagne, and if he wins next month the corks will certainly be popping here.