Annie Power can see off Big Buck’s and capture the stayers’ crown
Had anyone suggested that Big Buck’s would be available at 3/1 for a Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3.20) following his record fourth consecutive victory in the race in 2012, the individual in question would have probably been wheeled off by the men in white coats.
However, such is the impact that ANNIE POWER has made this season that the previously unthinkable prospect of Paul Nicholls’ charge being perceived as the underdog in the World Hurdle is very much the reality ahead of this year’s renewal on Thursday.
There are questions that the unbeaten mare needs to answer at the Cheltenham Festival. This will be by far the sternest test she has faced in her career to date, over a trip that she has yet to tackle and on ground which will be quicker than anything she’s previously raced on.
Still, Annie Power has beaten everything put in front of her so emphatically that it’s hard to gauge just how good she is. However, the manner of the beatings she has handed out to the re-opposing Zarkandar twice already this season suggest she is very good indeed.
Willie Mullins’ mare beat that rival by five lengths when in receipt of 11lb at Ascot in November. Two months later here at Cheltenham, she proved eight lengths too good for Zarkandar receiving just 7lb from the seven-year-old, which suggests she’s still improving.
Given that she’s only six, Annie Power is entitled to carry on improving and I rate her the best bet of the meeting at 15/8 with William Hill.
Judged on pedigree, the 3m trip of the World Hurdle should be within her range and I don’t believe for one minute that the quicker ground will inconvenience her in the least.
Big Buck’s ran a fine race on his return from injury in the Cleeve Hurdle here in January. He should come on for that run and, though now an 11-year-old, he clearly retains plenty of ability. There won’t be a dry eye in the house if he emerges victorious in this race one again but, I fear, he will struggle to cope with Annie Power.
At Fishers Cross returned to form with cheekpieces applied in the Cleeve, narrowly beaten by Knockara Beau with Big Buck’s less than a length adrift in third. However, Rebecca Curtis’ charge appears to be at his best when the mud is flying, which has to be a worry with the ground continuing to dry out at Prestbury Park.
For those seeking a value each-way alternative, More of That is well worth a second look at 10/1 with Sky Bet. Champion jockey Tony McCoy has passed him over in favour of At Fishers Cross, but AP got it wrong in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, choosing My Tent Or Yours ahead of Jezki, and the same could happen here.
Cheltenham Festival betting advice – Annie Power (15/8, William Hill)
Benefficient can take flight in the Ryanair
At this meeting 12 months ago BENEFFICIENT comprehensively outpointed Dynaste in the Jewson Novices’ Chase, and the Tony Martin-trained gelding is taken to repeat the dose on day three of the Cheltenham Festival in the Ryanair Chase (2.40).
The eight-year-old has a tendency to throw in the odd inauspicious display, but his shrewd trainer invariably has him cherry-ripe for the races that really matter, and he looked at least as good as ever when landing a high-class renewal of the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown last time.
He’s been given plenty of time to recover from those exertions and, with the better ground at Cheltenham and going back up in trip in his favour, I will be surprised if he’s beaten in this Grade 1 contest.
Dynaste was disappointing in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, but he was an excellent second in the Betfair Chase on his reappearance at Haydock, form which gives him solid claims. However, while dropping back in trip on a quicker surface should help, I can’t envisage him reversing last season’s Jewson placings with Benefficient.
Personally, I’m not convinced about Al Ferof. He’s clearly a very talented horse, but I feel that he falls short of the top level over fences, while Boston Bob’s jumping remains a major concern and Menorah’s wellbeing has to be taken on trust, having been pulled up on his return to action in the King George.
Cheltenham Festival betting advice – Benefficient (7/2, bet365)
Charm looks Wonderful in opening race
The Willie Mullins-Ruby Walsh combination have landed the opening races of the first two days of this season’s Cheltenham Festival, and they have a strong chance of maintaining that trend on day three via Felix Yonger in the JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30).
The eight-year-old brings solid chase form to the table and has to be taken very seriously indeed, but WONDERFUL CHARM looks tailor-made for this race and makes plenty of appeal at 11/2 with bet365.
Paul Nicholls’ charge has taken extremely well to fences, winning his first three starts in this sphere prior to finding only Oscar Whisky too good on his latest start here in December. He should reverse the placings with the latter whom he meets on 8lb better terms this time.
Lightly-raced French import Vukovar and the classy Taquin du Seuil may both find the ground too quick, but one at a bigger price – and with solid course form – that will relish the surface is Double Ross, and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse is a tempting each-way option at 14s with Paddy Power.
Cheltenham Festival betting advice -Wonderful Charm (11/2, bet365)
Additional Cheltenham Festival Day 3 Tips:
It’s been a torrid week for Dessie Hughes so far, with Our Conor sadly suffering a fatal fall in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, and the well-fancied Art of Logistics was badly hampered in the concluding novices’ handicap chase on the opening day.
However, the County Kildare handler could be in line for a welcome tonic, as SEEFOOD looks poised to run a big race in the Pertemps Final (2.05). He came right back to form when runner-up in a competitive qualifier for this race at Leopardstown last time and, with blinkers refitted here, he rates a cracking bet at 14s with Betfred.
In the Byrne Group Plate (4.00), Tony McCoy has opted to ride Colour Squadron ahead of TAP NIGHT, but Barry Geraghty is a more than able deputy for the latter and Lucinda Russell’s charge is worth supporting at 10/1 with BetVictor.
He shaped as though peaking at just the right time when third in a valuable Grade 3 at this track on his latest start and will relish the better ground on Thursday. Irish raider Sraid Padraig and Johns Spirit are obvious dangers.
Nina Carberry can come up trumps in the finale, the Fulke WalwynKim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (4.40) aboard CAUSE OF CAUSES. He has yet to get his head in front over fences, but has gone mighty close in decent contests the last twice and remains well treated judged on his hurdles form.