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2014 World Hurdle tips - Big Buck's to stamp class on World Hurdle field

Big Buck's can land a fifth World Hurdle under new pilot Sam Twiston-Davies.

Brian Healy previews the feature race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the World Hurdle.

It is day three of the Cheltenham Festival and there’s no let-up in the quality racing with another competitive contest going to post. The World Hurdle promises to be a fascinating encounter between the old guard, in the shape of four-time champion Big Buck’s, and the young wonder-mare, Annie Power.

The clash isn’t just about young versus old, however; it’s a battle of the sexes too, with Annie Power and Quevega representing the girls, and Big Buck’s and At Fisher’s Cross representing the boys.

With twelve runners going to post for the day’s feature race, we take a runner-by-runner look at the field.

At Fisher’s Cross 

Winner of the 2013 Albert Bartlett and expected to make a bold bid in this event earlier in the season, but jumping went to pieces in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury won by Celestial Halo, and he unseated at the last when well beaten in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Returned after a break and some back treatment to run a blinder in the Cleeve Hurdle, just touched off by Knockara Beau but the bare level of his form leaves him with something to find, while the drying ground is not in his favour.

Big Buck’s 

The outstanding staying hurdler who ran up an unbeaten 18-race sequence, including landing this contest on four straight occasions. He was denied a potential fifth win when forced to miss 2013’s renewal due to injury and has been steadily nursed back to health.

Paul Nicholls’ charge ran well when his winning streak was ended by Knockara Beau in the Cleeve Hurdle, where he tired on the run-in in heavy ground, but was only beaten half-a-length and he is expected to come on a bundle for that run; racecourse gallops and strong exercise at home in Ditcheat will be sure to knock any remaining rustiness off, and he has a strong chance of recapturing his crown.

However, he has to concede mare’s allowance to Annie Power, which makes life tougher for the old boy, and it appears he’ll need to post a career-best effort at the age of eleven to see off Willie Mullins’ wonder mare.

Celestial Halo 

He has been a grand servant for connections, chasing home Solwhit in this contest last year, and has won seven Graded races of his own. 

He lowered the colours of At Fisher’s Cross in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury before perhaps needing the run following a setback next time at Haydock in the Rendlesham when a well-beaten third behind Seeyouatmidnight.

Has something to find with the best of these, but will give his running and no forlorn hope of landing a place.

Mala Beach

Irish raider who beat Defy Logic in a Grade Two contest at Fairyhouse in March last year, and his best effort this season came in the Galmoy at Gowran Park, beating Un Beau Matin.

His best form is well short of the principals here, and he needs soft ground to be seen at his best, so is passed over for this event where he looks to be flying too high in this company.

Medinas 

Winner of last season’s Coral Cup and Welsh Champion Hurdle, Alan King’s runner has posted creditable efforts in Grade Two contests this season at Wetherby and Newbury, the latter coming behind Celestial Halo.

Has plenty to find in order to get involved and for all he’s a talented type, this is surely too hot for him.

More Of That 

Unbeaten in four starts, readily landing the Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle last time and value for more than the official winning distance. He made a couple of jumping errors that day, and clearly not the finished article over hurdles, but should continue to improve and is an exciting and interesting runner.

The step up to this distance is sure to suit, and has Barry Geraghty aboard so a bold bid is likely and he rates a dark horse in the race.

Reve De Sivola 

Tough and genuine sort who successfully defended the Long Walk Hurdle when beating Salubrious by ten lengths, with At Fisher’s Cross beaten in third when that rival crashed out.

Ran disappointingly at Cheltenham in the Cleeve Hurdle next time though, failing to land a blow, and has finished well beaten behind Big Buck’s and Celestial Halo in the past, and no reason to suspect he can get closer to those rivals now with the drying ground against him.

Rule The World 

Smart novice hurdler who found only The New One too good in last season’s Neptune and has scored twice at Naas this season in soft ground.

No match for Champion Hurdle winner Jezki in the Hatton’s Grace, and finished behind Zaidpour two starts ago so has plenty to find on the book, and another who may not be suited by the better ground.

Salubrious 

Landed the Martin Pipe here last season when out-staying his rivals, and no disgrace in recent Grade Two runner-up efforts behind Reve De Sivola and More Of That.

Sure to appreciate the ground, Paul Nicholls’ runner should give a good account, but needs to improve if he’s to come close to winning this.

Zarkander 

The fourth of Paul Nicholls’ runners, Zarkander has been running against top opposition this season, but always at the wrong trip and this step up to three miles could see him in much better light.

He has chased home Annie Power at Asacot on his reappearance, and then dropped in trip to finish runner-up to The New One before again finding Annie Power too good at Cheltenham in the Dornan Engineering Hurdle, and again dropped to two miles in the Kingwell when second to Melodic Rendezvous in heavy ground.

He looks sure to improve for this additional yardage, and while he has something to find with Annie Power on their two meetings this season, he can go well and could make the frame.

Annie Power 

The big talking horse of the Festival, and was subject of much speculation as to where she would go before it was settled that she would contest the World Hurdle.

She has carried all before her in small-field events, and ran out a facile winner of the Dornan Engineering Hurdle, and again next time at Doncaster.

She has yet to be seriously tested in ten career starts and has barely come off the bridle thus far in her races, but all her running has come at shorter than this trip.

A strong-travelling type with plenty of speed, connections of Annie Power are adamant she’ll stay the trip, and Willie Mullins’ wonder mare is sure to run a huge race in what is her toughest assignment to date if she proves stamina for the trip.

Quevega 

Six-time winner of the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, posting a game effort the last twice in the race. 

Just as good at three miles and should give a good account, but this is a whole new ball-game compared to the Mares’ Hurdle and if turned out for the race she’ll likely have to raise her game further if she’s to topple the principals.

VERDICT : 

A fascinating contest in prospect between the young wonder-mare and the battle-hardened veteran, with preference for BIG BUCK’S whose run in the Cleeve Hurdle in bottomless ground was immense given the time he had spent on the sidelines, and Paul Nicholls is sure to have left no stone unturned in getting his four-time champion up to peak fitness.

He’ll need to be at his best to give the 7lbs mares’ allowance to Annie Power and Quevega however, but with stamina assured and no doubts surrounding the ground, the old legs of Big Buck’s could be capable of one more hurrah and he can claim a fifth World Hurdle.  

Annie Power is sure to give Big Buck’s a mighty race in receipt of 7lbs and has carried all before her in lesser events, notching up ten straight wins without being seriously tested. Big Buck’s however will present Willie Mullins’ charge with her sternest exam to date, and she has stamina to prove over this additional distance.

Quevega, six-time Mare’s Hurdle winner is an interesting contender if lining up, while there is surely more to come from More Of That who is an exciting and potentially top-class recruit to these ranks.

Brian Healy’s World Hurdle selections:

BIG BUCK’S 

More Of That (each-way)


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2014 World Hurdle tips - Big Buck's to stamp class on World Hurdle field

Brian Healy previews the feature race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the World Hurdle.

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