Cheltenham Festival: World Hurdle Preview & 10/1 Betting Tip

Nicky HendersonThe World Hurdle is the ultimate stamina test for hurdlers over three miles (3.20pm Thursday). Big Buck’s scored four times for his owners, the Stewart family and they have a decent chance of reclaiming the title with Saphir Du Rheu, the 5/1 joint favourite.

This physically imposing six-year-old French-bred looks every inch a chaser but was found wanting over larger obstacles, like Big Buck’s. Trained by Paul Nicholls, he blundered and unseated Sam Twiston-Davies on his seasonal debut over fences at the end of November but went on to win a novice chase easily a week later at Exeter. He jumped impressively throughout.

Great things were expected when he lined up on Boxing Day in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton. He started as the favourite but fell at the seventh fence. A rethink was required and he was last seen winning the Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance in January on soft ground. He beat Nick Williams’ Reve De Sivola (25/1) by a neck when carrying 4lb less than him. Last season he scored three times in handicap hurdles, gaining a rating of 165. He is the highest rated horse to line up and looks to have strong claims.

Nicholls also saddles the equally fancied Zarkander (5/1) who was fourth in this race last year, eight lengths behind More of That. He was beaten a head by Reve De Sivola last time out off level weights in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December on good to soft. In his only other outing this season he scored in a valuable Grade 1 hurdle at Auteuil on testing ground in November.

He failed to score but came close in top class company a number of times last season. He was twice the runner-up at Prestbury Park, finishing six lengths behind The New One and eight lengths behind Annie Power over shorter distances. This eight-year-old is rated 5lb lower than his stablemate. He is talented but has been slightly unpredictable in the past and would probably be helped by more testing conditions than he is likely to encounter here.

Reve De Sivola (25/1) is a soft ground specialist who was well beaten (by 18 lengths) on very testing ground by Zarkander in France but went on to reverse the placings in the Long Walk. Off level weights he would almost certainly have beaten Saphir Du Rheu in the Cleeve Hurdle. We haven’t seen him since.

This ten-year-old looks very generously priced for a horse with a string of Grade 1s to his name and solid recent form. On the downside he looks to need good to soft to see off younger legs but is still a very attractive each-way proposition. He shares a rating of 160 with Zarkander.

Nicky Henderson’s (pictured) seven-year-old Whisper (10/1) is rated just 1lb below Saphir Du Rheu at 164 and has to be considered. He was tried over fences on his only outing this season at Exeter in January. He started as the hot favourite but was beaten three lengths by Nicholls’ Ceasar Milan after stumbling badly early on and jumping less than fluently.

Last season he won the Coral Cup (over two miles five furlongs) at the Festival on good ground and went on to win the three mile Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle in April, beating Rebecca Curtis’ At Fishers Cross (33/1) by a length. Whisper has an excellent record here, finishing third when carrying top weight in a handicap hurdle in November 2013 and winning a decent novices’ hurdle in the spring of the same year. Now proven over three miles he should enjoy conditions and has to be one for the shortlist.

World Hurdle Betting Tips Conclusion

Paul Nicholls’ pair, Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkander merit respect but don’t seem to offer much value at their current price of 5/1. If ratings are any indicator Nicky Henderson’s WHISPER is a much more tempting proposition. He should enjoy the good ground, has proven stamina and performs at Cheltenham. He has to be our pick each-way, best priced at 10/1 with BetVictor.