Half of those engaged have won a race at the home of jumps racing. Of those, 15 have triumphed at previous Cheltenham Festival – though perhaps none more taking than Paisley Park.
Emma Lavelle’s stable star is a hot favourite with the bookmakers to retain his crown after brushing aside the competition in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Paisley Park wisely side-stepped heavy ground at Ascot and the Long Walk before Christmas, however.
As a lightly-raced eight-year-old, there is plenty left in the tank for a spring campaign.
Andrew Gemmell, the inspirational owner of Paisley Park, has confirmed they plan to go on to the Punchestown Festival after Cheltenham.
His position at the head of the betting will solidify further if a clash with Liverpool Hurdle hero If The Cap Fits happens in the Cleeve on Festival Trials Day.
Any battle between Paisley Park and this other leading British contender at Cheltenham before the big day is sure to inform the market further.
If The Cap Fits is trained by Harry Fry, who has had success in staying hurdles with Unowhatimeanharry.
A dual victor in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot, the eight-year-old is another who has been minded for this.
Cheltenham local trainer Tom George has two interesting Stayers’ Hurdle entries.
Summerville Boy landed the Supreme at the Festival in 2018 and bounced back to form when returning to the smaller obstacles in the Relkeel on New Year’s Day.
The Worlds End, meanwhile, benefitted from Paisley Park withdrawing from the Long Walk by scoring in the Ascot Grade 1.
Previous winner Penhill among Irish contingent
There are 19 Irish horses entered and eight of those by champion trainer Willie Mullins.
While the Closutton maestro keeps punters guessing about his Cheltenham plans, the most likely runner is Penhill who won the race two years ago.
He has improved with each outing following another lengthy lay-off, but also gone well fresh before.
Bacardys has run in leading staying hurdle contests in the Emerald Isle this season too.
Gordon Elliott has four Gigginstown House Stud owned horses engaged. Like the Mullins mounts, however, these have alternative Festival targets but Apple’s Jade was back to her best over 3m at Christmastime.
If chase campaigns don’t work out for Martin Brassil’s City Island, Minella Indo from the Henry De Bromhead stable or the Mouse Morris trained Sams Profile, then their Stayers’ Hurdle entries are eye-catching.
Nicky Henderson has four possible runners. The inclusion of Champ, who fell in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham is interesting.
Tackling fences has been the plan throughout the campaign for him, but leading Irish owner JP McManus has no other horse in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Also potentially representing Seven Barrow are Coral Cup hero William Henry, and the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned duo L’Ami Serge and Top Notch.
So much depends on how horses come through preparations with this race. Plans may be switched and Stayers’ Hurdle entries taken up if work and performances in other spheres don’t work out.
Full 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle entries
- Apple’s Jade (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Ask Dillon (Fergal O’Brien)
- Bacardys (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Benie Des Dieux (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Bright Forecast (Ben Pauling)
- Champ (Nicky Henderson)
- City Island (Martin Brassil, IRE)
- Court Maid (Thomas Mullins, IRE)
- Death Duty (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Donna’s Diamond (Chris Grant)
- Emitom (Warren Greatrex)
- Footpad (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Goodbye Dancer (Fergal O’Brien)
- If The Cap Fits (Harry Fry)
- Kilbricken Storm (Colin Tizzard)
- Killultagh Vic (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Klassical Dream (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- L’Ami Serge (Nicky Henderson)
- Laurina (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Lisnagar Oscar (Rebecca Curtis)
- Messire Des Obeaux (Alan King)
- Minella Indo (Henry De Bromhead, IRE)
- Not Many Left (Jessica Harrington, IRE)
- Paisley Park (Emma Lavelle)
- Papagana (Oliver Sherwood)
- Penhill (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Portrush Ted (Warren Greatrex)
- Relegate (Willie Mullins, IRE)
- Ronald Pump (Matthew Smith, IRE)
- Samcro (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- Sams Profile (Mouse Morris, IRE)
- Summerville Boy (Tom George)
- Surin (Gordon Elliott, IRE)
- The Jam Man (Ronan McNally, IRE)
- The Mighty Don (Nick Gifford)
- The Worlds End (Tom George)
- Tobefair (Debra Hamer)
- Top Notch (Nicky Henderson)
- West Approach (Colin Tizzard)
- William Henry (Nicky Henderson)