St Patrick’s Day at the Cheltenham Festival is always a raucous affair, and you can expect the noise levels to increase yet further should hot favourite for the World Hurdle, Thistlecrack, enter the winner’s enclosure.
This renewal is one for the stayers; a three-mile stretch that requires lungs of iron and the ability to run hard for longer. For this reason it is considered a specialists’ race, and that’s why plenty of money will be wagered on defending champion Cole Harden, who was at a best price of 8/1 with SkyBet at the time of writing.
He took this race last year after running hard from the starter’s pistol to the bitter end, however it is thought that decent ground is required for this powerhouse to prosper; and that may not be the case next week given the forecast.
That said, there are numerous multiple-time winners of this race; which adds weight to the argument that specialist skills are required to succeed.
If you like that omen, you will love this one. The World Hurdle has been won seven times by former Cleeve Hurdle winners, and ten former champions of the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot have also taken honours in the Cheltenham feature race. Who won both of those races last time out? Thistlecrack – the 6/5 favourite with William Hill.
This is a horse that stands head and shoulders above his competition here, and seemingly the only obstacle to him winning are those ones that stand about five feet high that he will need to jump over.
One competitor that could be in the mix is Alpha Des Obeaux, who gave Thistlecrack a tough examination at Aintree back in 2015 before hitting the deck. He’s a horse that always seems to be there or thereabouts despite only winning twice in nine starts, and so he’s worth a second look at 6/1.
For other contenders with a proven Cheltenham record look no further than 12/1 hope Saphir Du Rheu, who came a close second in last year’s World Hurdle. As a former winner of the Welsh Champion Hurdle, this is a horse with outstanding pedigree at an eye-popping price.