There certainly appears to be a curse determined to lower the quality of this year’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
First it was four-time winner Big Buck’s ruled out, then fellow Paul Nicholls runner Tidal Bay and now joining them on the illustrious list of absentees is the most fancied Irish entrant Monksland.
Trainer Noel Meade has revealed that the horse suffered a setback at home and although Monksland has not been confirmed to miss Cheltenham, the likelihood of him making an appearance is very slim.
Ireland have not provided a winner of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in 18 years and with their leading challenger out, hopes of victory now almost entirely sit with Bog Warrior.
Bog Warrior is 10/1 to win the 3m contest and has not put a foot wrong this season since switching from fences to hurdles, securing victory on all three starts.
What is particularly vital to his chances is the ground, with the softer the better for Bog Warrior.
This could be interesting as it is stamina that is the main doubt over many of the leading protagonists, namely 3/1 favourite Oscar Whisky, Peddlers Cross and another Irish entrant in Solwhit.
Meanwhile, the main negative, aside from whether he is actually good enough to win a Ladbrokes World Hurdle, is the struggles that front runners tend to have in the race, meaning Bog Warrior may get swamped up the run in.
Only one front runner, Limestone Lad in 2003, has even managed to place, let alone win, since 1996 and of all Cheltenham Festival contests, this one more than most seems to least favour those that like to make all.
Solwhit is also 10/1 to win the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, but the fact that he has never raced over 3m is a reason to be sceptical over his chances.
Furthermore, he finished six lengths adrift of Bog Warrior off level weights over the New Year period and although he can be expected to come on for the run as it was his first for almost a year, it is hard to see him reversing places with his Irish rival.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.