World Hurdle betting tips and preview for the feature race on day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival 2014 at 3.20pm.
The Ladbrokes World Hurdle gives the premium staying hurdlers the chance to shine in a race which has quickly become of the most anticipated of each Festival. This year looks to be no different as the greatest staying hurdler returns to Cheltenham with the aim of fending off all his challengers and reclaiming the title he has made his own over recent National Hunt seasons. Here are my thoughts and best bet for the contest.
Run over 3m on Prestbury Park’s Old Course, the World Hurdle thoroughly examines a horses’ ability to deal with the stamina sapping conditions. One horse who has thrived when presented with such a task over the years is the four-times race winner – Big Buck’s (3/1 bet365). Previously unbeaten in 18 races he returned this season after an injury lay off and put in a gallant display to finish a close up third. Considering this was his first race in over a year his performance was more than satisfactory and connections are bullish that he will return to Prestbury Park with an excellent chance.
His main opposition looks to come from the powerhouse of Willie Mullins. The Irish master trainer has decided that his superstar mare – ANNIE POWER (15/8 Coral) will take up this engagement. Unbeaten in 10 career starts under rules, she has quickly established herself as a leading light of National Hunt racing. After claiming her first Grade 1 victory at Fairyhouse in March of last year, she has been campaigned solely in this country. Facile victories at Ascot, Cheltenham and Doncaster have seen her claim two further Grade 2 prizes and beat the 162 rated hurdler – Zarkander on two occasions. Despite minor doubts over her ability to stay the 3m trip she has the ideal attributes for a staying hurdler and should prove a worth advisory to Big Buck’s.
Third in the current betting is At Fishers Cross (8/1 William Hill), last year’s emphatic Albert Bartlett winner. At the start of the season he looked for all the world (including me as I tipped him very early on) as the biggest danger to Big Buck’s. Unfortunately, so far this season he has put in some very disappointing performances. He made his reappearance in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and after a poor round of jumping he finished some 22 lengths behind the winner Celestial Halo. He followed up that effort at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle where he unseated the Champ at the last when well and truly beaten by Reve De Sivola. He looked to improve for a return to Cheltenham on his most recent start and managed to get within a shoulder of winning the Cleeve Hurdle (with Big Buck’s in behind). Undoubtedly his latest performance was more reminiscent of the At Fishers Cross from last season but he still didn't jump with any great fluency and only his superior fitness allowed him to reel in Big Buck’s. For me, he doesn’t represent any sort of betting prospect.
The second JP McManus runner is the interesting – More Of That (10/1 Betfred). Unbeaten so far over four career starts, his latest victory came at the International meeting at Cheltenham where he beat the talented Salubrious by just over two lengths over a 2m5f trip. Keen not to get the horses’ head in front too early on, AP McCoy stalked the eventual runner-up and produced him late to claim victory. There are stamina doubts about this horse as the way he was ridden seemed to suggest that he doesn't find a great deal for pressure. Anther negative is his lack of experience, despite winning on the same course he is yet to face battle hardened Grade 1 opposition. There were genuine question marks about whether or not the horse would even take his place in the line-up and considering the fact that AP McCoy has chosen to ride At Fishers Cross instead of this horse, confidence about his chances doesn’t seem to high. Certainly a horse for the future, this race may have come one year too soon.
Rule The World (10/1 BetVictor), who finished second in last year’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, certainly looks a good each-way prospect. Despite being beaten on his only start over 3m (4 length victory to Zaidpour at Leopardstown on his penultimate start this season) he looked to still be recovering from a serious injury he suffered over the summer months. Back to something near his best on his latest start, he claimed a facile victory in a Grade 3 over 2m3f at Naas. Certainly, this horse has questions to answer about his stamina, but he run in the Neptune was particularly taking and he has shown throughout his career that he could eel improve for a longer trip. At double figure prices he presents the each-way place in the race and could relish a return to Cheltenham and good spring ground.
Of the others, Zarkander (14/1 Stan James) is stepped up to 3m for the first time in attempt to bring the horse back to top level form. He could well improve for the step up in trip but it would be difficult to see him overturning the form with Annie Power (providing she stays). Similarly it seems difficult to envisage Salubrious (20/1 Coral) overturning the form with More Of That (providing he stays). Finally, Celestial Halo (20/1 Betfred) is a gallant warrior who is likely to keep the pace nice and high but should struggle against his more famous stablemate.
Despite many racing commentators looking to pick holes in her chance to claim victory – mainly focusing on stamina issues, ANNIE POWER is a potential superstar who could well dominate this division for years to come. Her defeat of Zarkander was particularly impressive as she fluffed the last but was still able to power up the Cheltenham Hill to victory. Although I respect the record and challenge of Big Buck’s, for me Annie Power looks a fantastic betting prospect.
World Hurdle Betting Tip
ANNIE POWER (WIN) (15/8 Coral)
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