All eyes will be on Cheltenham on Thursday as the Ladbrokes World Hurdle takes centre-stage on day three of the Festival.
After a sensational start to the four-day extravaganza on Tuesday, punters were not in as much luck on day two and the bookmakers fought back in the Prestbury Park betting war. High profile defeats for Pont Alexandre and Unioniste had the layers jumping for joy and race fans will be hoping for a more successful afternoon on Thursday.
The World Hurdle is the feature on a seven race-card, including the re-scheduled Cross Country Chase, and punters look set for another spellbinding afternoon on the Cotswolds.
If your selection finishes second to the SP favourite in any race at Cheltenham on Thursday, Paddy Power will refund your losing bet.
13:30 Jewson Novices' Chase (Registered As The Golden Miller Novices' Chase) (Grade 2) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m 4f, 13 runners)
Register with William Hill using bonus code C50 and get a free £50 bet on the Jewson Novices' Chase.
The 2013 Jewson Chase kicks off proceedings on Thursday and the presence of Dynaste (13/8, Paddy Power) has changed the whole complexion of the contest.
David Pipe’s market leader has been sent here rather than the RSA Chase on Wednesday and it isn’t hard to see why the bookmakers have him in at such a short price. This trip looks perfect for the grey and the Feltham hero will appreciate the ‘easier’ task in a Grade Two. However, the Grade One winner looks short in the betting and it’s not certain that he has as much in hand as his rating might suggest.
At the prices, it looks like CAPTAIN CONAN
(13/2, William Hill
) could be the one to be on and he has drifted to a very attractive price in recent days. The gelding will be looking for his fifth success in eight starts in Britain and Ireland and with three Grade Ones already to his name, he can add this race to his CV.
Though he wasn’t too impressive in the Scilly Isles Chase in February, trainer Nicky Henderson wasn’t convinced he was at his best that day and the handler thinks we could see the former hurdler in better form at Cheltenham. His jumping is assured and he looks an efficient operator who will appreciate the test at Cheltenham.
Willie Mullins’ Aupcharlie (6/1, William Hill
) commands considerable respect dropping in trip, while the RSA Chase on Wednesday gave a huge form boost to Texas Jack (12/1, Ladbrokes
14:05 Pertemps Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle) (5yo+, Class 1, 3m, 24 runners)
Sam Winner (5/1, William Hill
) has been the long-time ante post favourite for the Pertemps and the fact he is thrown into the race has been the Festival’s worst kept secret in recent weeks.
Paul Nicholls’ Triumph Hurdle fourth brings some top class form to the table and though things haven’t gone to plan for the horse in the last couple of years, he is clearly the pick of the weights.
However, 5/1 looks skinny in a 24 runner race and BALLYBOUGH PAT
) looks a fantastic each-way price for trainer Anthony Honeyball. The five-year-old has always been held in the highest regard by his handler and a mark of 137 certainly looks workable here.
He has been running with great credit in defeat of late and he will relish the three-mile test and big field on Thursday.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Shutthefrontdoor (13/2, Betfred
) continues to be well backed in the build-up to the race and his success at Carlisle last time out was certainly impressive, while Nicky Henderson’s Top Of The Range (16/1, Ladbrokes
) hasn’t been badly treated with a 5lb rise for his victory at Sandown.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Ballybough Pat
14:40 Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy Chase) (Grade 1) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m 5f, 8 runners)
After originally looking like one of the races of the meeting, the Ryanair Chase has now cut up to eight runners and First Lieutenant (11/4, Stan James
) brings top class Irish from to Cheltenham.
The 2011 Neptune Hurdle winner finished second to Gold Cup favourite Bobs Worth in last year’s RSA and Mouse Morris’ horse has looked as good as ever so far this season. His second to Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase was a huge run and he will understandably be popular with favourite backers.
Riverside Theatre (6/1, Ladbrokes
) will be looking to retain his crown in the race after Barry Geraghty somehow managed to get him in the winner’s enclosure twelve months ago, but all has not been well since and there are worries that the track doesn’t suit.
Cue Card, (7/2, bet365
) is likely to set a good gallop in front and he is undoubtedly one of the most talented horses in the field, however he’ll have to jump incredibly well if he is going to win from the front and he could easily set the race up for FOR NON STOP
Nick Williams’ eight-year-old has been overlooked in the betting and he has always threatened to put in a massive display. A strong travelling type with plenty of talent, the selection absolutely sluiced through the field to hammer Wishfull Thinking (23 lengths) at Aintree and he might have even bettered that form when he gave weight to Captian Chris and finished second at Ascot at Ascot.
A line can be drawn through his last run (goes best fresh) and he will appreciate the better ground at Prestbury Park. He looks a fantastic each-way bet in an open race.
Nick Wilby’s selection – For Non Stop
15:20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+, Class 1, 3m, 14 runners)
The absence of Big Buck’s in this year’s World Hurdle has meant that the contest has a wide open feel to it for the first time in years and the bookmakers are struggling to split Oscar Whisky (4/1, BetVictor
) and Reve De Sivola (9/2, Paddy Power
) at the head of the market.
The duo were last seen battling out an epic renewal of the Cleeve Hurdle and Oscar Whisky’s followers will be hoping that the better ground will see him reverse the form with his conqueror there.
However, though he is one of the classiest horses in the race, it looked like he failed to stay twelve months ago and it might be that the Cleeve Hurdle form really isn’t up to much this year.
Instead a chance is taken on SOLWHIT
(10/1, William Hill
) who brings some formidable form to the table and he looks a fascinating contender for Ireland.
Charles Byrnes’ nine-year-old had been contesting the best two-mile hurdle races in Ireland before he was injured two seasons ago and his battles with Hurricane Fly make for very interesting reading. That is incredible form and a fine effort behind Bog Warrior (9/1, Paddy Power
) on his return was proof that there was still plenty of ability there.
His commanding success over So Young (28/1, Coral
) at Naas next time out confirmed that he was back on the right track and he still has plenty of miles on the clock. Question marks remain about the trip, but 2m4f appeared to be right up his street before he was injured and he looks well worth a try in the World Hurdle.
His class could be enough to see him take the title back to Ireland, although the likes of Peddlers Cross (10/1, Sky Bet) and Get Me Out Of Here (9/1, Paddy Power
) will make sure that the selection has to be at his best.
16:00 Byrne Group Plate (Grade 3 Handicap Chase) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m 5f, 24 runners)
24 horses go to post for the Byrne Group Plate and Bayllynagour (4/1, Betfred
) could be very well in for trainer David Pipe.
The seven-year-old landed a gamble for his new yard in a ten runner 2 ½ mile handicap at Warwick last month and he will be incredibly hard to beat if he is in the same mood on Thursday. However, 4/1 looks a very skinny price in such a competitive handicap and it isn’t hard to see why punters are looking elsewhere.
Hunt Ball (8/1, Ladbrokes
) would be a hugely popular winner, twelve months on from his victory at last year’s Festival, but it would be some performance to score off top-weight and CANTLOW
) looks a more likely candidate.
Paul Webber’s gelding finished third in last year’s Pertemps Final and he has kicked on since he has switched to the larger obstacles this season. His mark looks very workable and he has won impressively at Plumpton and Taunton on his last two starts.
It looks like connections have spent the season aiming their horse at one of the Festival handicaps and it’d be no surprise to see him well backed before the off.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Cantlow
16:40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders) (5yo+, Class 2, 3m 1f 110y, 24 runners)
24 go to post for the Kim Muir and Super Duty (11/2, Stan James
) has been heavily backed to win the famous race.
Donald McCain’s seven-year-old was last seen finishing a very close second to Goulanes in a Grade Two at Wetherby and he brings some pretty impressive form to the table. Ante post punters would be thrilled to see him score here, although once again, he looks a skinny price in a wide open race.
Romanesco (11/1, Sky Bet
) is respected for Gordon Elliott and last year’s JLT Handicap Chase hero Alfie Sherrin (10/1, Paddy Power) would be a player if he’s back to his best, however Willie Mullins can notch another winner with VESPER BELL
) who remains very unexposed for his master handler.
His three starts over fences have all been relatively impressive and his third in a Grand National trial last time out reads well. He is obviously in fantastic hands and he is a tentative selection in a wide open contest.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Vesper Bell
17:15 Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country) (5yo+, Class 2, 3m 7f, 16 runners)
Philip Hobbs and Balthazar King finally broke the Irish stranglehold on the Cross Country Chase last year, but the Irish will be confident that Arabella Boy (9/2, bet365
) can bring the crown back home with them on Tuesday afternoon.
Trainer Enda Bolger has saddled four of the last five winners of the race and it is no surprise to see the market leader at the head of the betting. Two victories in three races means Arabella Boy arrives at HQ in fine form, but it could be Jessica Harrington that holds the aces for Ireland and BOSTONS ANGEL
(8/1, Sky Bet
) can score at generous odds.
The 2011 RSA Chase winner has not won since his success at the Festival two years ago and though he doesn’t look like returning to the form that saw him become one of the top staying novices in the sport, he is certainly capable of winning here.
Three starts over these fences have seen him jump well without winning and at nine years of age, he undoubtedly as a couple of big races in him. Harrington appears to have found the key to him again and his class could see him leap into the winner’s enclosure on Tuesday.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Bostons Angel
(8/1, Sky Bet