BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE LADBROKES WORLD HURDLE AND BYRNE GROUP PLATE
IT is such a shame that Big Buck’s isn’t going to be here to try to win a historic fifth Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3.20pm). He is a remarkable horse and there is little doubt that he would have won today’s race had he been fit.
Quevega showed on Tuesday how class always comes to the fore and the way Big Buck’s beat Reve De Sivola earlier this season means he would have started a very short price. Let’s hope he can make it back next year to cap an incredible career.
The one benefit of Big Buck’s not being in the field is that we have a really open betting heat and you could give realistic chances to the first eight in the betting.
Oscar Whisky and Reve De Sivola are vying for favouritism after they did battle in the Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance in January. Reve De Sivola just got the better of that scrap, but it was on heavy ground and Oscar Whisky was ridden to get the trip.
I don’t actually think there will be much between them at the finish – yet I don’t really want to be backing either at 4/1 with Blue Square Bet. Oscar Whisky is surely better over two and a half miles, while Reve De Sivola’s best form is on desperate ground.
Bog Warrior is another I’d fancy if the rain arrives, but conditions look like they are going against him. If it continues to dry out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony Martin pulls him out.
The Irish haven’t won this race since 1995 and their other main chance is Solwhit, who was a strong fancy for the Champion Hurdle in 2010. He didn’t perform that day, so I’m not sure if he really handles the track, and I’d be concerned about his fragility anyway.
Peddlers Cross is mildly interesting as he has some excellent form over hurdles at this track. The nagging doubt is that Hurricane Fly might have broken his heart in the Champion Hurdle two years ago, as he just hasn’t looked the same horse since.
Paul Nicholls will be hoping to win a fifth straight World Hurdle, with Wonderful Charm, who has been rerouted from the Coral Cup. The fact that they are coming here is interesting, but this is a huge step up in class for such a young, inexperienced horse.
The two that interest me are GET ME OUT OF HERE and SMAD PLACE. They should be backed at 9/2 with Paddy Power and at 12/1 with Ladbrokes respectively.
Get Me Out Of Here has finished second at the last three Festivals and he really deserves to land a big prize. He appreciates better ground, so conditions are coming right and he looks a cracking each-way bet.
Smad Place ran a gallant race 12 months ago, finishing third to Big Buck’s and Voler La Vedette. With both of those missing today, he has to be of interest at a decent each-way price. Yes, he’s not looked brilliant this term, but is another who wants good ground and I can see him running really well.
I’d also side with both of these runners against the likes of Solwhit and Bog Warrior in match bets with Sporting Index.
David Pipe’s Salut Flo landed a massive gamble in the Byrne Group Plate last year and the trainer will be trying to pull off the double with Ballynagour this afternoon (4.00pm).
I have rarely seen a more impressive winner than this formerly French-trained seven-year-old who trounced some reasonable opponents, including Tuesday’s JLT winner Golden Chieftain, at Warwick last month. He went up 21lb for that win and is now a 4/1 shot with Ladbrokes.
The problem I have with him is that he has struggled to hold his form together in the past and he is plenty short enough for a competitive race like this.
Hunt Ball is becoming more interesting with the ground drying out, but this will be difficult off top weight, and I will be having an each-way bet on Ferdy Murphy’s DIVERS instead.
The nine-year-old grey loves Cheltenham, having won the Centenary Novices’ Handicap two years ago, and finishing fourth in this race last year. He has dropped 7lb in the weights in the past 12 months and is a solid each-way selection.
SMAD PLACE e/w 3.20pm Cheltenham
GET ME OUT OF HERE e/w 3.20pm Cheltenham
DIVERS e/w 4.00pm Cheltenham