Gone are the days of Big Buck’s turning up on St Patrick’s Day Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival to take the feature race with aplomb, with the four-time winner now enjoying his retirement.
But with Saphir Du Rheu those famous colours could be carried to victory in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle once again.
Using the trends that matter, presented in Ladbrokes’ fantastic Cheltenham Lowdown we can assess Paul Nicholls’ charge’s chance of stepping up in style.
Perhaps a rarity in contests at the Prestbury Park extravaganza, the Irish have a terrible record in this stayers’ contest.
As displayed from the image above they’ve triumphed just once this century from 42 per cent of the runners, Solwhit the sole Emerald Isle success since 1995.
Therefore we are going to concentrate on the home charge in day three’s feature.
Recent form also looks important with the last 24 victors finishing in the first four last time out.
That puts paid, well in our opinion, to At Fishers Cross, who frankly, looks like he is gone at the game, as well as Nick Williams’ Aubusson.
Coincidence? Maybe, but the fact that the last five winners have had between two and four runs this season is a trend we are taking seriously.
With that logic applied we are left with four on our shortlist, from which we must whittle down one by one.
David Pipe’s French import Un Temps Pour Tout may have got within 3l of the favourite in the Cleeve Hurdle, but the fact that he didn’t run at the Festival 12 months ago, unlike 17 of the last 21 winners, goes against him and he’s eliminated.
Recently described as a “great each way play” by his trainer but Cole Harden’s running style looks likely to go against him if the trends are to be believed.
Just one front-runner has held on for even a place since 1996, one hell of a stat that could see him struggle on the biggest stage.
So, after all that, we are left with Paul Nicholls’ pair of market leaders Zarkandar and Saphir Du Rheu.
There doesn’t look an awful lot between the pair, with 2014’s third and last season’s Welsh Champion Hurdle winner set to square off for our selection.
Both are French-bred, as were eight of the last 12 winners (although Big Buck’s skews this somewhat), so nothing between them there.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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