Ladbrokes World Hurdle wide open after favourite’s withdrawal
The Ladbrokes World Hurdle will have a new winner this year as it was confirmed that defending champion More Of That will not be at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained seven-year-old lost his unbeaten record on his seasonal reappearance, coming a distant third from Medinas at Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup festival in November, and underwent a breathing operation following the run.
While on the comeback trail, a bleed discovered in training has ended connections’ hopes of sending their prized possession to Prestbury Park in defence of the title he won 12 months ago.
Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “The writing was on the wall a few weeks ago to be fair.”
“When he burst a few weeks ago we feared the worst. He’s back in good form again with himself, but the Festival is just going to come too quick. So, we’ll give him a nice long break and bring him back refreshed in the autumn.”
More Of That’s absence has opened the ante-post market right out for the race, with three runners tied at the head of the betting at 4/1.
Last year’s runner-up Annie Power is joined by fourth-placed Zarkandar from last year’s race, while Saphir Du Rheu completes the three-pronged set of favourites for the Festival’s third-day showpiece.
Beyond that trio, Rock On Ruby stands as the only other single-figure price in the market at 7/1.
Along with the many fans of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle champion, More Of That’s fitness failure perhaps affects retiring jockey AP McCoy the most.
McCoy overlooked riding More Of That in last year’s race, choosing instead to saddle Zarkandar and handing Barry Geraghty a Festival winning ride in the process.
The man known as Champ was reportedly looking forward to climbing aboard the seven-year-old this year, but will now have to find a new mount for his final World Hurdle tilt.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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