23 Mar

Philip Sale | Wednesday March 23 2022, 1:42pm | Racing Comment

At the time of writing Zanahiyr can be backed at 20/1 with Sky Bet, bet365, Paddy Power and William Hill for the 2023 Stayers' Hurdle

Unlike our first selection Grangee, who is fully expected to be targeted at the 2023 Mares’ Hurdle, today’s selection Zanahiyr comes with a word of caution. Gordon Elliott’s gelding has proven a model of consistency over hurdles this season (winning a Grade 2 and placing four times in Grade 1 company) but there is a chance the trainer may send his five-year-old chasing next term. Equally, there is every reason to think Zanahiyr would be better placed in the staying hurdle division, and the case for him doing so is strong.

Whilst Elliott’s recent Triumph Hurdle winners Tiger Roll and Farclas graduated to be longer-distance chasers, it is hoped Zanahiyr does the same but over timber. If so, he would follow a path trodden by the likes of Celestial Halo and Zarkander who each graduated from the Triumph, ran creditably in the Champion Hurdle and eventually held their own in what was then the World Hurdle (finishing second and third respectively).

Whilst there are several things in Zanahiyr’s favour, perhaps the most obvious place to start would be the paucity of opposition. Flooring Porter will almost certainly make a bold bid for a hat-trick in 2023 – and in any antepost market we must accept there will always be a horse to fear – but those immediately behind him in this year’s renewal can be opposed. 

"He has raced almost exclusively at championship level in his jumps career"

Runner-up Thyme Hill is as consistent as they come and is another obvious threat, but despite a lofty rating of 161 he can be taken on at the prices. As for Paisley Park (3rd) and Champ (4th), they will both be eleven next year and it must be assumed their best days are over. Klassical Dream has the raw ability, but his mentality will always pose a problem for punters and with his future uncertain he is probably best backed on the day. There are, of course, many other horses worthy of consideration, not least those whose revert from fences to hurdles during the course of the season (this is a guessing game) and forgotten horses, such as Blazing Khal and Buzz.

If taking his chance in the Stayers’ Hurdle, Zanahiyr will attempt to emulate recent winners More Of That, Cole Harden and Flooring Porter by winning it as a six-year-old. Typically, one would want to side with a more experienced horse in the race (Solwhit was nine, Thistlecrack was eight, Nichols Canyon, Penhill, Paisley Park and Lisnagar Oscar were all seven) but Zanahiyr has a relatively unique profile in this respect. He has raced almost exclusively at championship level in his jumps career and has twice run with credit at Cheltenham. What he won’t be lacking is experience.

Donning the Aga Khan silks, Zanahiyr raced four times on the flat for Michael Halford (incidentally, on just his second start he finished eighth in a 10-furlong Curragh maiden behind subsequent St Leger winner Galileo Chrome and Derby winner Serpentine) and on his last appearance won a Fairyhouse maiden over 12 furlongs, already suggesting a propensity for longer trips. 

"Zanahiyr possesses plenty of natural speed, but his stamina can be taken on trust"

After a much-lauded juvenile campaign for Elliott, in which he impressed in winning a maiden, Grade 3 and Grade 2, Zanahiyr was a beaten 11/8 favourite in the Triumph, finishing behind stablemate Quilixios (now rated 150), Adagio (152) and Haut En Couleurs (now a 152 rated chaser).

Zanahiyr’s form at the top table is a tale of near misses. His record in Grade 1 company reads 4,2,2,2,2,3. However, to look at the horses who have beaten him - Quilixios, Jeff Kidder, Sharjah (twice) and Honeysuckle (twice) - could it be that he is simply being outpaced at the business end? 

As a son of King George winner Nathaniel and daughter of the Aga Khan’s Marju mare Zariyna (herself from a family of middle-distance pedigree), Zanahiyr possesses plenty of natural speed, but his stamina can be taken on trust, particularly as he has rarely been keen in his races.

It would be a stretch to think that Zanahiyr could take on the likes of Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle in next year’s Champion Hurdle, and with so many talented horses likely to be competing in the novice chase division, now is surely the time to seize a golden opportunity in the Stayers' Hurdle.

Image: Carine06 from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

* The email will not be published on the website.