Thistlecrack’s dominance of the staying hurdle division this season thanks to victories in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle, the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and then the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham understandably makes him a big favourite to win the World Hurdle at the Festival.
However, odds of 1/1 are plenty short enough that Colin Tizzard’s eight-year-old makes it four from four this season.
What such a short-price favourite has also done is provided some value further down the betting and the odds that stand out most are the 8/1 on Cole Harden, especially as an each-way proposition.
Here are four reasons that highlight why Cole Harden is a serious threat to Thistlecrack:
The defending champion
The World Hurdle is a race that has seen its fair share of repeat winners in recent years, with Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s all securing victory on more than once occasion.
Another in this sequence is due, with Cole Harden leading from start to finish 12 months ago.
Being trained specifically for the race
Warren Greatrex has stated for much of the season that Cole Harden will be trained specifically to peak in the World Hurdle, with other starts earlier in the campaign simply an exercise of improving fitness.
Greatrex was especially upbeat after a recent gallop at Cheltenham, where he described the horse as “looking like a million dollars”. It seems the trainer is confident about a title defence.
Preparation is much the same as last year
Cole Harden had four starts prior to the World Hurdle last season, winning on good ground at Wetherby, before finishing second, third and fourth on softer surfaces over a variety of trips.
Both starts this term have been on soft or heavy going, finishing six lengths adrift of Thistlecrack at Newbury and then a 20-length third in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham over an inadequate shorter distance.
Good ground brings out the best in him
The past winter hasn’t brought much in the way of good ground, meaning that the majority of races have favoured horses at their best when the rain has been falling.
Cole Harden has only experienced good ground three times in his last eight starts, with form figures of 112. Should the rain stay predominantly away between now and the Festival, he will arguably be better suited to conditions than all of his World Hurdle foes.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.