World Hurdle, Cheltenham 15:20
The feature race of Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival is the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, where the short price favourite with Betfred and three time winner Big Bucks is looking to make history with his fourth consecutive title.
Ruby Walsh will take the ride in what has been a relatively disappointing Cheltenham Festival so far for trainer Paul Nicholls, while Barry Geraghty will hope to continue his fine Cheltenham form by again riding a Nicky Henderson horse Oscar Whisky to victory at Prestbury Park.
Short price-favourite backers have had a luckless Festival thus far. It was nigh-on impossible to think that supposed Festival good things Hurricane Fly, Sizing Europe and Grands Crus would all be beaten, with only Quevega justifying market support for the odds-on punters.
They will be back in force in the World Hurdle as Big Buck’s looks another good thing, but will it go the same way of other hot-pots? No, this one is definitely bomb-proof.
Paul Nicholls’ superstar hurdler has been a revelation since switching from fences after his rider was unseated at the last in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup. Since that change of discipline, the imperious beast of a horse has racked up 15 straight victories, including three World Hurdle titles under big-race jockey Ruby Walsh.
His preparation this season has gone as smoothly as ever and anyone that had taken the even money on him securing his fourth title has never had a moments worry thus far. He is now a best priced 4/7 shot and on the form book has over 14lbs on official figures of anything else in the field.
Routine wins in the Sportingbet Long Distance Hurdle, Lough Derg Long Walk Hurdle and Cleeve Hurdle this season have only poured more fuel onto the fire that nothing has improved enough to get anywhere near him in this division.
Every year a rival has progressed through the ranks with the promise of dethroning the king but eventually gets put in his place come the race. Last year Grands Crus was the one to get turned over and this year’s looks to be Nicky Henderson’s Oscar Whisky, who is a top-class animal over two miles but has never been tried over three miles and there are significant doubts whether he will stay the extra distance.
Forget Oscar Whisky though as Big Buck’s will win, and win very well.
A fourth title beckons.