With no Big Buck’s to wax lyrical about this year, one wonders what the pundits are going to find to say about the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
The absence of the Stewart family’s superstar has obviously taken a little gloss of the third day’s feature, and you get the impression the crown will only be borrowed should Paul Nicholls manage to get his champion stayer back to the course in one piece. But there is a first prize of more £150,000 to be won and Big Buck’s’ non-appearance won’t be noticed once the tapes go up. The Irish challengers are so closely matched that it’s almost impossible to separate them and I’m not sure any of them will really appreciate the drying ground. Oscar Whisky and his recent conqueror Reve De Sivola are vying for favouritism at a general 4/1. The former barely gets 3m and I expect the latter to confirm course running and land this if the pace is strong enough.
The postponed Glenfarclas Handicap Chase will be run at the end of the card if the cross-country course passes an inspection and I’ll stick with my original selection, Bostons Angel, at 8/1 with Coral, Stan James and William Hill, with a saver on the potentially well handicapped Any Currency at 14/1 with BetVictor, Skybet and Stan James.
Dynaste can get punters off to a good start in the Jewson Novices’ Chase at 7/4 with Blue Square and 888sport as his form looks solid and he’s already won easily over track and trip while I wouldn’t mind a little each-way bet on the 25/1 about Captain Sunshine in the Pertemps Final (Coral). It would probably be best to wait until the last minute as Emma Lavelle‘s charge doesn’t like lining up but he’s got the talent to play a part if jumping off on terms.
Cue Card (7/2 with bet365) is a brilliant jumper and can reverse Kempton running with Champion Court (7/1 with the same firm) in the Ryanair Chase and should also hold off the consistent First Lieutenant (11/4 with Coral) while there are plenty of chasers with scope for improvement in the Byrne Group Plate. Cantlow has been brought along quietly by Paul Webber but can complete the hat-trick upped in distance at bet365 and Skybet’s 15/2. He looks to be on attractive handicap mark. Some old favourites line up for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Trophy Handicap Chase and this is one race at The Festival in which the experienced chasers are usually worth following. Alfie Sherrin, a winner at the meeting last year, will be popular at the general 10/1 but probable favourite Super Duty (5/1 general) appears to have plenty of weight on his handicap debut. Alfie Sherrin’s stablemate Galaxy Rock can run a big race at Skybet’s 16/1 but Ladbrokes’ 20/1 about Chartreux looks too big and he gets the vote with the accomplished Jamie Codd in the saddle.