Lieutenant Colonel can take the prize back over the Irish Sea
World Hurdle, 3m, New Course (due off 2.05pm)
Paul Nicholls, who had a treble on Wednesday, is strongly represented here with last year’s fourth Zarkandar and Saphir Du Rheu, and the pair are disputing favouritism. The latter horse is the chosen mount of stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies and he proved his stamina when landing the Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day in January. He’s attempting to emulate the same stable’s Big Buck’s (also owned by Andy Stewart) who aborted a chase campaign to make a winning return over the smaller obstacles, making this race his own (quadruple winner between 2009 – 2012). He’s got a long way to go to emulate that great horse but he already boasts a high level of form and is undoubtedly still improving at the age of six. Top price: 6/1 Paddy Power.
Zarkandar has a more exposed look and has yet to fully convince he’s as effective over three miles as he was over shorter (won the 2011 Triumph), although drying ground will help in that respect. He doesn’t find much off the bridle so his partner Noel Fehily will need to play him as late as possible. Top price: 11/2 William Hill.
Who else is fancied?
You can get double-figure odds on the rest. Lieutenant Colonel, a general third-favourite, heads the Irish challenge and he had several of these – Jetson (2nd), Monksland (3rd), At Fishers Cross (4th), Dedigout (6th), Zaidpour (7th) – behind when winning the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. That was his first attempt at 3m and, while he’s not seen a racecourse since, he is clearly improving at a rate of knots.
Last year’s Coral Cup winner Whisper proved he stayed this far when winning over 3m at Aintree on his next start. Beaten at odds-on in a novice chase at Exeter, his sole outing this term, he will appreciate the return to hurdles. Un Temps Pour Tout has just under three lengths to make up on Saphir Du Rheu on their Cleeve Hurdle running but given that was his start for over eight months, he could bridge the gap and has the scope to improve further.
Any decent outsiders?
A couple in particular stand out. Cole Harden has had a wind operation since finishing fourth in the Cleeve and was in good form earlier in the season. His second to Beat That at last year’s Aintree festival is arguably his best effort and the drying ground is a big plus. Seeyouatmidnight was a prolific winner last term and will have come on a bundle for his reappearance second at Haydock, where he travelled like the best horse until lack of condition took its toll. He could run into a place for his small stable.
Trainer quote: “He’s a lovely horse to deal with as he takes everything in his stride and is very mature mentally. I’m expecting a big run from him in the World Hurdle on Thursday – I genuinely wouldn’t swap him for any other horse in the field.” – Sandra Hughes on Lieutenant Colonel
Best bookie offer
Back the winner of this race at 4/1 or bigger with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50) on the next live Channel 4 race – the 4.00 Cheltenham (Festival Plate).
For a championship race this is incredibly open and, after much thought, a tentative vote goes to LIEUTENANT COLONEL, who is taken to improve the excellent record of six-year-olds (four of the last ten winners). SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT is one for each-way backers.