Still regarded as the feature race on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival. The Ladbrokes World Hurdle is sadly missing what we’ve been accustomed to seeing each March, Big Buck’s. Paul Nicholls’ great has sadly been sidelined through injury which means for the first time since 2008 this race will be won by something other than the son of Cadoudal.
A few key stats worth taking into account when evaluating this race;
- No five-year old has ever won the race.
- The World Hurdle hasn’t been won by an Irish trainer in the last 17 years.
- Horses that finished unplaced in their final outing before the World Hurdle have a poor record in the race, and is always worth siding with a horse in form in this contest.
For the first time in as long as I can remember this looks like being one of the most competitive World Hurdle’s on record, certainly since the millennium but do we have the class to befit a race of Grade 1 status or is it a much of a muchness?
Reve De Sivola
Assessor (IRE) — Eva De Chalamont (FR) (Iron Duke (FR ) (12.0f))
Notes: After a fairly low-key return to the hurdling game when a laboured and well beaten second to Big Buck’s at Newbury, Reve De Sivola has strung together a couple of impressive successes, most recently when fighting off Oscar Whisky in the Cleeve Hurdle in bottomless ground. On a day where tactics played a big part in things, he was plenty close enough to a decent pace and I think he ran better than the margin suggests in victory. Seems fairly adaptable in regards ground and goes to the Festival with very solid claims.
Oscar (IRE) (13.7f) — Ash Baloo (IRE) (Phardante (FR ) (12.7f))
Notes: Has yet to prove he stays this three-mile trip but I think judged on his last run he will have no problems in lasting out the trip back on better ground with Big Buck’s out the way. I do think he’d be more potent in a Champion Hurdle though, and perhaps the two and a half miler at Aintree is his race this year. He does travel exceptionally well throughout his races and he is certainly bred to stay so you couldn’t write him off but he looks short enough at the head of the market.
Beneficial (14.3f) — Cush Jewel (IRE) (Executive Perk (IRE) (10.8f))
Notes: Came to the Festival last season with a lofty reputation following three successes over in Ireland but was firmly put in his place by Simonsig in the Neptune Novices Hurdle. Returned over a trip short of his best to beat a decent handicapping sort in Joxer, before finishing runner-up to Zaidpour in the Hatton’s Grace. The pair dueled again in the Christmas Hurdle this time over three miles, and with Monksland in receipt of 2lbs from Zaidpour he pulled away at the finish to register a fifth success in seven starts. I’ve watched him throughout his races and his proximity to both Zaidpour and So Young does make me question if he’ll be good enough in March, as neither of those would be good enough to play a hand in the World Hurdle so taking that into account he looks short enough at around 6-1 generally.
Flemensfirth (USA) — June´s Bride (IRE) (Le Moss (12.4f))
Notes: Has been somewhat of a revelation since the switch to Paul Nicholls, and the master of ditcheat seems to have unlocked the key to this quirky son of Flemensfirth. Runner up to Bob’s Worth in the Hennessy Gold Cup giving away weight he followed that up with victory in the Lexus Chase. Has been sidelined with injury since but you can be assured he’ll be ready to roll if lining up on the Thursday of The Festival and has to be on the shortlist.
Strategic Choice (USA) — Kilmac Princess (IRE) (King´s Ride (14.0f))
Notes: This is a horse who I thought would make into a fairly decent chaser but seems to have found a new lease of life switched back to hurdles recently. Easily swept aside Zaidpour last time out after being allowed to set soft fractions in receipt of 4lbs, and based on that run rates similar with Monksland but is a bigger price at 10-1 generally. I think he is priced about right in the market which would make Monksland around 4pts too short at his current market value, and although Bog Warrior could snatch a place on the day, I really think his stamina could be tested in a more honest gallop over the trip, and he is another I can’t get crazy about.
Oscar (IRE) (13.7f) — Patscilla (Squill (USA) (9.4f))
Notes: A previous winner at the Cheltenham Festival when taking the Neptune Novices Hurdle back in 2010. He followed up the next year with a cracking second to Hurricane Fly in the 2011 Champion Hurdle, before embarking on a failed chasing campaign. He made his comeback in a bumper for jumpers and travelled up extremely well before ring rust showed in his finishing effort having had a year off, coming home second to the useful Sam Winner. Peddlers Cross certainly has the pedigree to be very good over this three-mile trip, and I’m buoyed by his run in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2010 where he stayed on strongly over two miles five (to beat Reve De Sivola). He is due to take up an entry on February the 13th at Musselburgh over 2m6f, and should he win that comfortably you’d have to expect his price to contract and connections to opt for the World Hurdle.
Smad Place has been put in his place this season by the likes of Tidal Bay and Reve De Sivola and although third in this race last year he just doesn’t look good enough.
Quevega will surely head for the OLBG Hurdle again and thus won’t take up her engagement in this race.
Rite Of Passage doesn’t look like he’ll run, Thousand Stars isn’t good enough at Cheltenham to have a say and Wonderful Charm has to buck that five-year-old stat which suggests he has it all to do.
The one potential fly in the ointment could be Solwhit who despite running one of his worst races at Cheltenham, got outpaced at a vital stage before staying on again in the 2010 Champion Hurdle, and has looked like retaining all ability since his return from injury this term but on form I’ve seen ties in closely with both Bog Warrior and Monksland which suggests he’ll come up short.
VERDICT: With no Big Buck’s in the field this year we are set for a very open renewal of the World Hurdle in what has become one of the most fascinating races at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival. Strictly on form it looks to be between Reve De Sivola and Oscar Whisky and a repeat of their runs in the Cleeve Hurdle will see them go very close, however I’m going to give a chance to PEDDLERS CROSS who has acquired the tag of a disappointing horse since his gallant second in the Champion Hurdle in 2011, but didn’t take to fences at all. He has also suffered with back problems caused by his chasing campaign and the time off will have helped sort that out, and he comes to Cheltenham a relatively fresh horse after a recent tune-up on the all-weather. He is due to run on February 13th where he looks to have a solid chance and you’d have to expect a victory for him to have a realistic chance in the World Hurdle.
That said at the current odds of 12-1 he is worth chancing a small bet he remains the horse he promised us a couple of seasons ago, and should he return to form he’ll beat this lot next month.