There’s no Big Buck’s, Annie Power nor last year’s winner More Of That in this season’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham, making the stayers’ event arguably the most competitive championship race at the Festival so far.
Paul Nicholls pair Saphir De Rheu and Zarkandar currently share favouritism at 9/2, but each have had mixed campaigns over the smaller obstacles.
Saphir Du Rheu has won twice and failed miserably twice, falling at Kempton on Boxing Day and unseating Sam Twiston-Davies at Newbury a month earlier, while Zarkandar last won on British shores six races and nearly two years ago.
Nick Williams’ Reve De Sivola must be of interest each way at 25/1 after beating Zarkandar by a head when they met at Ascot in December, before only just going down against Saphir Du Rheu last time out.
Nicky Henderson’s Whisper could also look a big price at 11s if bouncing back from a poor second in his only outing so far this term, but the value here must lie with Jessica Harrington’s Jetson at meaty 14/1 odds.
The 10-year-old has serious Cheltenham form in the book having finished third, 2l behind this year’s Gold Cup dark horse Holywell, in the Pertemps Final in 2013.
He then came fifth of 23 runners in the same race last year, again less than 3l off winner Fingal Bay, and has arguably kicked on in the 12 months since.
Jetson was the first horse to beat six-time Cheltenham Festival winner Quevega in nine races, stretching back over four years, at Punchestown in April, and although the son of Oscar has finished runner-up in his two starts this season, both times to World Hurdle 9/1 shot Lieutenant Colonel, he has improved for each run.
Having finished 4l behind Sandra Hughes’ six-year-old over 2m4f at Fairyhouse in November, Jetson got to within a length of Lieutenant Colonel when they met again in Leopardstown’s 3m Christmas Hurdle.
With two-time Tuesday winner Davy Russell on board, expect Jetson to make up the requisite ground to feature prominently.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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