Run in the middle of November at Cheltenham this race has proved a stepping stone for many horses with Stan James Champion hurdle aspirations.
Back in 1987, the very first Stan James Greatwood hurdle was won by Celtic Shot who went onto win that season’s Champion hurdle the following March. The Fred Winter trained five year old carried just 10 stone 6lbs in the Greatwood, and highlights the type of horse that races in this contest. For the most, young improving types from the top stables.
A whole host of horses who won this race in the 1990s went onto run down the field in the Champion hurdle the following year including Atours (1994 winner – 7th of 14 to Alderbrook in ’95) and Grey Shot (1998 winner – 11th of 14 to Istabraq in ’99) while Jessica Harrington’s Space Trucker won the race in 1996 before finishing third to Make A Stand in the 1997 Champion hurdle. Two years later he was to return to Cheltenham to win the Grand Annual Chase.
Westender won the Stan James Greatwood in 2001 from a rating of 132 before going onto finish second in the Supreme novices hurdle four months later (rated 144) and then a year after that was 2nd in the 2003 Champion hurdle.
Rooster Booster won the 2002 renewal (rated 151) before going on to take the Champion hurdle in 2003 (rated 167) while his owner, Terry Warner, won our race four years later with Detroit City (r. 146) who subsequently finished 6th to Sublimity in the 2007 Champion hurdle (r. 167)
Trainer Phillip Hobbs, who had both Rooster Booster and Detroit City, won the Greatwood for a third time when Menorah took the race in 2010 (r.151) having previously won the Supreme novices hurdle the year before when rated 147. He then finished 5th in the 2011 Champion hurdle to Hurricane Fly – starting 3/1 second favourite and rated 167.
Paul Nicholls’ Bramapour (winner in 2001 when rated 149) finished 11th in 2012 Champion hurdle behind Rock On Ruby (when rated 161) while Garde la Victoire made it four wins for Phillip Hobbs in the Greatwood back in 2014 (rated 144).
This year the £100,000 Grade Three StanJames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle on November 13 has attracted 37 entries
Britain’s champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls was on the mark last year with Old Guard and has seven entries this time, including Grade Two scorer Zubayr (12/1 with StanJames.com) and All Set To Go (25/1), who was runner-up in a valuable handicap hurdle at Haydock Park in May, as well as last season’s Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle victor and runner-up, Diego du Charmil (16/1) and Romain de Senam (16/1).
Philip Hobbs, has engaged the 2014 scorer Garde La Victoire (14/1) recently successful in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las plus Sternrubin (25/1) winner of a very competitive G3 handicap hurdle at Ascot last season, and the unexposed Ozzie The Oscar (25/1), successful on three of his four starts over hurdles.
One horse already on the mark at Cheltenham this season is Sceau Royal (Alan King, 12/1), impressive at The Showcase on October 22 when he had Leoncavallo (Ben Pauling, 25/1) in second, Adrien Du Pont (Paul Nicholls, 10/1) in fourth and Wolf Of Windlesham (Stuart Edmonds, 50/1) in fifth. King, who trains in Wiltshire, has also made an entry for Winter Escape (10/1) who is unbeaten in three starts including when last seen in a G2 event at Kempton Park in February.
Pauling, who trains near Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, also has eight-year-old course and distance winner A Hare Breath (12/1), successful in two of his six starts over hurdles, engaged.