Graham Dench's top ten Long Walk Hurdle winners

Leading racing writer Graham Dench has his say on the greatest horses to land the staying showpiece over hurdles at Ascot.

  • Friday 18 December
  • Blog
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Saturday’s Porsche Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, live on Sky Sports Racing, has been won by many of the sport’s elite stayers since it was granted Grade 1 status in 1990. Multiple winners Baracouda, Big Buck’s and Reve De Sivola would be in anyone’s top ten, but after that there’s room for argument. You will have your own ideas, but here’s mine, in reverse order:

Watch the Porsche Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 19th December.

10 MY WAY DE SOLZEN (2005) Alan King

Don’t worry if your memories of My Way De Solzen winning at Ascot seem a bit fuzzy as he never even ran there. The Long Walk was run at Chepstow’s Welsh National meeting in 2005, and in a race in which 2-5 favourite Inglis Drever was never travelling and fell two out, ‘My Way’ stepped out of handicap company to beat the subsequent Grand National winner Neptune Collonges by a decisive five lengths. Two starts later he beat Golden Cross in a memorable finish to the World Hurdle, and the following season he was reinvented as a two-miler to win the Arkle.

9 FLOYD (1990) David Elsworth

Floyd made his name as a bold-jumping, front-running two-miler, a prolific winner in handicaps such as the Imperial Cup on his way to level weights success in races like the Fighting Fifth and the Kingwell. He was a veteran by the time he was down the field in the 1990 Stayers’ Hurdle on his first try at three miles, but nine months later, in a Long Walk run over nearly three and a quarter miles on unseasonably fast ground, he came home three lengths clear of Ryde Again. His first staying win was not his last.

8 UNOWHATIMEANHARRY (2016) Harry Fry

Like many Long Walk winners, Unowhatimeanharry arrived at Ascot on a roll, unbeaten in six races since being bought by Harry Fry as a fun horse for his racing club and now sporting the green and gold of JP McManus. In a race run in thick fog he was left clear when his two biggest threats came down at the last, but Barry Geraghty already looked to have matters in hand. He was beaten at odds on at Cheltenham in March, but a career record that includes four three-mile wins at Grade 1 level and a further four at Grade 2 speaks for itself.

7 PAISLEY PARK (2018) Emma Lavelle

Paisley Park’s two-length defeat of rank outsider West Approach in 2018 might not in itself entitle him to a place in this top ten, landmark success though it was for both Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman. There was much better to come however, for in two subsequent wins at Cheltenham, notably the defeat of 2017 Long Walk winner Sam Spinner in the Stayers’ Hurdle, he established himself beyond doubt as the best staying hurdler around. He is having to prove himself again now, but a convincing win on Saturday would move him up a place or two.

6 DEANO’S BEENO (2002) Martin Pipe

Rather like the little girl in the nursery rhyme,when Deano’s Beeno was good he was very good indeed, and when he was bad he was horrid. He was adored by all who knew him nevertheless, including Sir Anthony McCoy, who said he got the best out of every jockey who rode him, himself included. Both McCoy and the enigmatic ‘Deano’s’ were brilliant on the gloomy December afternoon in 2002 on when they made all and somehow held the peerless Baracouda, a success that was celebrated all the more as he had been second in three previous Long Walks.

5 ANZUM (1999) Alan King

Anzum was a 40-1 chance when down the field behind Princeful in the 1998 Long Walk, but by the time he returned 12 months later he was a dual Grade 1 winner at the trip in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and in its equivalent at Punchestown. Racing for the first time for Alan King following the retirement of David Nicholson, he put up the performance of his life, chasing the strong pace set by 4-9 chance Deano’s Beeno until challenging on the bend and quickly forging 17 lengths clear.

4 REVE DE SIVOLA (2012, 2013 and 2014) Nick Williams

Reve De Sivola benefited from the absence of Big Buck’s when beating Smad Place easily in his first Long Walk, but there was no fluke about it and he returned in 2013 for another wide margin win, and again in 2014 to beat Zarkandar a head. A Grade 1-winning novice hurdler who, like Big Buck’s, was returned to hurdles when he failed to reach the top over fences, his ability to maintain a relentless gallop over extended distances from start to finish made him a formidable opponent.

3 THISTLECRACK (2015) Colin Tizzard

We should see on Saturday how much ability Thistlecrack retains as a 12-year-old, but when he was carrying all before him in the 2015-16 season even Big Buck’s or Baracouda might have had their work cut out beating him. While his very best effort probably came at Cheltenham in March, the subsequent King George winner was also deeply impressive in the Long Walk, where he travelled well throughout and stormed home eight lengths clear of three-time Long Walk winner Reve De Sivola.

2 BIG BUCK’S (2009, 2010 and 2011) Paul Nicholls

With so many top-level wins to choose from it’s not surprising that three successive wins in the Long Walk are probably not among those that first come to mind when we recall the highlights of a remarkable career. Another reason is that two of them were in rearranged races held at Newbury, which was pretty much his second home after Cheltenham. It was at Newbury in 2009 that Big Buck’s beat Karabak for his first Long Walk, and at Newbury again that he beat former Long Walk winner Lough Derg 12 months later. When he completed his hat-trick of wins in the race at the expense of stable-mate Five Dream it was the only time he ever raced at Ascot.

1 BARACOUDA (2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004) Francois Doumen

Some will argue that Big Buck’s ought to be number one in this list, but Baracouda was another giant of the staying division and his Long Walk record was second to none. His first three Long Walks were won by an aggregate 68 lengths and only Deano’s Beeno, under an inspired ride from Sir Anthony McCoy, prevented him from winning the race five times in succession. Baracouda’s final Long Walk, which was switched to Windsor while Ascot was being redeveloped, was a very tactical affair and the principals finished in a heap, but his thwarting of all attempts to outmanoeuvre him - ridden by McCoy incidentally for the last of 18 career wins, following Thierry Doumen’s retirement - was another masterclass in its way.


Watch the Porsche Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 19th December.

Graham Dench's top ten Long Walk Hurdle winners
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