What are the best bets in the World Hurdle?
15:30 Ryanair World Hurdle, 3m
Last year’s 1-2-3: Cole Harden (14/1), Saphir Du Rheu (5/1), Zarkandar (6/1) – 16 ran.
Thistlecrack has improved out of all recognition to the horse who finished fifth in last season’s Imperial Cup (off a mark of 135) to tower above his rivals for this 3m Grade 1, and he’s a ‘banker’ bet for many. After winning a Grade 1 at Aintree last spring – his first try over this trip – he has looked more impressive with each run this season and the vanquished include last year’s winner Cole Harden at Newbury, Reve De Sivola in the Long Walk and Ptit Zig in the Cleeve. That latter victory proved he can be effective at Cheltenham, having disappointed on his only previous run at the track, and his preparation since has gone smoothly. Just for good measure his trainer Colin Tizzard is in cracking form and all things considered, it’s a surprise he is not an odds-on chance. Top price: 6/5 (2.20) Paddy Power (NRNB).
Who else is fancied?
Last year’s winner Cole Harden has finished well beaten on both his starts this term but those efforts can be excused on account of the ground. Better ground should bring about a big improvement and the weather forecast is favourable. His trainer Warren Greatrex has been sounding quite bullish over his charge’s well-being in the last few weeks, saying after a racecourse gallop that he was “looking a million dollars.” Given good ground he may again account for last year’s runner-up Saphir Du Rheu, though his trainer Paul Nicholls is sounding equally confident about his chances.
The Irish challenge is headed by Alpha Des Obeaux who would probably have finished second to Thistlecrack at Aintree last season had he not fallen when held by that rival at the final hurdle. He’s proved a model of consistency since, finishing runner-up twice and posting a career-best effort when winning a Grade 2 at Gowran Park in February by 11 lengths in first-time cheekpieces. Bryan Cooper was of the opinion that heavy ground didn’t’ suit him on that occasion so there may be more to come, though whether he has the class of Thistlecrack is another matter.
And the rest?
Paul Nicholls has a decent second-string in Aux Ptits Soins who landed the Coral Cup on his British / stable debut at last year’s Festival. However, he’s not been sighted on a racecourse since due to various problems and even his trainer is ‘slightly nervous’ over the prospect of running here without a run. One for the future for sure – his future lies over fences – but hard to fancy him this year.
Whisper is capable of top-class form and, having finished fifth in this race 12 months ago, he reversed placings with Cole Harden at Aintree. His trainer Nicky Henderson is sure to have him primed and he must have each-way claims. Others in with a shout of nicking a place are last season’s Albert Bartlett winner Martello Tower and Charlie Longsdon’s Kilcooley, who has been absent thrashing Rock On Ruby by 13 lengths at Wetherby at the end of October. He could be the dark horse if making the gig (considered 60-40).
Trainer quote: “He’s absolutely hosed up this season and, although there must be horses out there who can push him, we haven’t found one yet, have we? He hasn’t had a hard race yet but he’s looked as if there’s more to come when we have to ask him.” – Colin Tizzard on Thistlecrack.
Best bookie offer?
Paddy Power are refunding losing stakes on the second horse home as a free bet up to £25, while Boylesports are doing the same if your horse finishes second to the SP favourite – Thistlecrack then.
What’s the verdict?
I’ve already taken on several short-priced favourites – Min, Yanworth and even Un De Sceaux – for the sake of finding some value, but I’m not going to look past THISTLECRACK here. Colin Tizzard’s star has won the big three British trials by an aggregate of 26 lengths on the bridle and that’s Big Buck’s-style domination. He’s the banker of the week for me and any odds against quoted are value. The current title-holder Cole Harden may chase him home of he gets the good ground he needs and he’s solid each-way with Paddy Power at 7/1 (¼ odds) given their money back offer
SELECTION: Thistlecrack @ 6/5 Paddy Power NRNB & money back if 2nd