Aubusson is a fantastic antepost bet for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle
The World Hurdle looks a race to bet on as the current favourite and defending champion More Of That has serious questions to answer and, more importantly, several bookmakers are now offering the “non-runner no-bet” (NRNB) concession, meaning we can get stuck into those horses who are still being considered for other races at the Cheltenham Festival.
More Of That is 7/2 favourite with those bookmakers going NRNB, which strangely doesn’t include the race sponsors Ladbrokes (come on Laddies!), and that makes zero appeal given he ran two stone below form on his reappearance at Newbury in November and hasn’t been sighted since. Connections will be hoping a second wind operation has the desired effect and with his trainer Jonjo O’Neill a master at getting horses to peak for the spring festivals, it would be wrong to write him off entirely. Even so, I still can’t believe he’ll be much shorter on the day.
Take him out and the race is wide open with bookmakers betting 8/1 and bigger. I’m not including last year’s runner-up Annie Power, who is second favourite and as short as 4/1 (NRNB) in some lists, as she is far more likely to go run in the Mares’ Hurdle, which has been raised to Grade 1 status.
Last year’s third, At Fishers Cross, doesn’t have that option and at first glance he’s a big-looking 25/1 considering he went off at 9/1 last March. There’s a reason, though, as he’s been largely disappointing since – was turned over as favourite for the third time this season over Christmas – and is prone to making mistakes too.
I’ll cut to the chase and give you my idea of a value each-way shot, the Nick Williams-trained AUBUSSON, who will surely be shorter than the current 33/1 if he turns up – NRNB takes care of any worries there.
You can make a case for several in that price bracket but none can boast the same form credentials of the six-year-old, who won the valuable “Fixed Brush” Hurdle at Haydock in November, his first try over three miles, following on from a cracking second to subsequent Ladbroke fourth Shelford at Chepstow on his reappearance. Last time out, he ran as well as could be expected when third to stablemate Reve De Sivola at Ascot on ground he hated.
Okay, he needs to improve again to have a say in the World Hurdle but that’s entirely possible as he’s a lightly-raced improving sort who is thoroughly unexposed over three miles.
He also has Cheltenham form in the bank, having won a decent novice at the 2014 New Year’s Day meeting, and the decision by connections to skip last year’s festival given his immaturity could well pay off in style in March. He’s likely to be ridden by his regular partner Lizzie Kelly who is one of the jockey finds of the season and, while she wouldn’t be able to claim in this Grade 1, I wouldn’t want anyone else riding.
Of the rest, you have to respect a couple of Irish-trained contenders in Lieutenant Colonel and Monksland, who finished first and third respectively in a Grade 1 at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.
Of the pair, I prefer Monksland as he was having his first run in two years and is going to come on enormously for the run. His third to Simonsig in the 2m4f Grade 1 Novices’ Hurdle at the 2012 Festival is top-notch form and he’s still relatively unexposed as a stayer.
It’s a case of “all systems go for the World Hurdle”, according to his trainer Noel Meade, and I wouldn’t put anyone off taking the 14/1 on offer, with the NRNB concession vital given his past problems.
There are question marks over several others in terms of stamina, with neither Zarkandar and Rock On Ruby looking like strong stayers. Better ground would help the former horse get home but he was well a well beaten fourth in last year’s race and finds little off the bridle.
He doesn’t represent any value at 8/1, in my mind. You can get 10/1 on his stablemate, Saphir Du Rheu, who is taking in the Big Buck’s route having twice got rid of his jockey in three starts over fences this season. He’s an intriguing runner but nowhere near the value of the selection.
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