Preview and Free Betting Tips for the Cleeve Hurdle – Without any doubt, the highlight of this weekend’s racing action is the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham Trials Day. Racing fans will have the opportunity to witness the reappearance of one of the greatest staying hurdlers ever to have seen a racecourse. Big Buck’s returns after almost two years off the track due to injury and will be looking to firmly put his 5 rivals to the sword in the hope of justifying his current position as favourite for the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival 2014.
No better starting place than the 18 race unbeaten BIG BUCK’S (1/1 Betfred). Trained by Paul Nicholls this 11 year-old comes into the race off a 420 day absence, something which many will consider a good enough reason to oppose this fantastic athlete. However, that might be a tad foolish when you consider the many positives surrounding this horse and what he has managed to achieve in his career to date. Four times a World Hurdle winner and twice a Cleeve Hurdle winner, Big Buck’s has a formidable record at Cheltenham having won all 6 hurdle races he has contested at Prestbury Park. Guaranteed to handle any ground, this horse has a tremendous galloping ability and seems to thrive when presented with the formidable Cheltenham hill. Rated on a mark of 174 he dwarfs his field in terms of ratings and is a clear 12lbs higher than his nearest challenger (a horse who coincidently he destroyed by 9 lengths on his last appearance before his injury).
That horse in question is Reve De Sivola (7/2 Coral) and that race in question was the 2012 renewal of the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury. Since that final meeting between the pair, Reve De Sivola has gone on to win three Grade 1 contests, all in particularly testing ground. It is this horses’ love of truly soft ground that will act as a massive advantage come Saturday afternoon. Conditions at Cheltenham are expected to be dire and stamina will be the key component to any success. This Nick William’ horse is undoubtedly seen to best effect when allowed to jump out infront and control the race. Similar tactics are likely to be employed and it will come as no surprise to see him pressurising Big Buck’s from the off in the hope of exposing any fitness frailties.
The hugely disappointing At Fishers Cross (7/1 Betfred) lines up after unseating the champion jockey at the last when already held by Reve De Sivola in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. Many, including me, considered this horse the main danger to Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle at the start of the season, so impressive was his performance in the Albert Bartlett last year. However on the evidence that we have seen so far this year, At Fishers Cross has lost all jumping ability and is struggling to even get into his races. His trainer, Rebecca Curtis is in poor form and no amount of confidence about how well this horse has been at home could persuade me to back him here. Until he regains his form of old he has to be one to watch.
The Irish master trainer, Willie Mullins sends over an interesting contender in the form of Boston Bob (4/1 bet365). After falling on his last two appearances over fences last year (one of those in the RSA where he was looking comfortable heading to the finish line) he has been reverted back to hurdles and so far has won his only start of this season. That victory came at Punchestown in heavy ground over 2m4f against rivals rated around the 130 mark. Undoubtedly he faces much stiffer opposition here but nonetheless he won with such ease that it would be foolish to underestimate him. He handles testing ground and has form over this trip and at the track, most notably finishing second in the 2012 Albert Bartlett.
Like many, I would love nothing more than for BIG BUCK'S to return and rout this field like the horse of old. He may not need to come back to full form to beat these rivals, but he will have to be near his best in order to defeat opponents who are race fit and will be suited by conditions. Of his three main rivals, I fear Reve De Sivola the most. If allowed to bowl along in front and set a stiff pace he could well expose any fitness frailties in Big Buck’s. That being said Big Buck’s has accounted, easily, for Reve De Sivola in the past and one could envisage him doing so again tomorrow. Speaking with RacingUK, former Big Buck's jockey, Ruby Walsh was confident that the horse will maintain his unbeaten run. His trainer is a master at getting older horses to produce their best form time after time and I have every confidence that he has done so again with Big Buck’s. At even money he is undoubtedly short but the simple fact of the matter is that, if he returns to something near his best form he will win!
Cleeve Hurdle Selection –
BIG BUCK’S (WIN) (1/1 Betfred)
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