Michael Dorgan looks ahead to the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, the highlight of which is the World Hurdle.
Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival is all about the World Hurdle (3:20pm) and the clash of former champion versus young pretender, old versus new, male versus female, Big Bucks versus Annie Power. Having won the race on four consecutive occasions, Big Bucks is on the verge of an unprecedented fifth title and in doing so would cement his place as the greatest World Hurdler of all time.However all the rage has been about the unbeaten Willie Mullins trained mare Annie Power who, since being confirmed to run in the race, has been installed as a short priced favourite.
There are doubts about both runners; Big Buck’s age (now 11), his performance in January in the Cleeve Hurdle after a thirteen-month absence from racing and Annie Powers unproven form over the longer 3 miles. The 7lbs mares’ allowance that Annie Power receives from her rivals may be the crucial factor in this race and while Paul Nicholls is convinced that he has Big Bucks back to his best you would wonder if Big Bucks can concede that substantial weight over this trip. And with the young pretenders upstaging Hurricane Fly on Tuesday it would be an incredible achievement for Big Bucks to come up on top. However it may be folly to concentrate on the top two with plenty of class throughout the field with the JP McManus pair of At Fishers Cross and More Of That also in the field and the latter is unexposed and could give Barry Geraghty a big shout in the race. Mouse Morris’s Rule The World is another potential dark horse.
Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins will try to make it three out of three in the openers today with Felix Younger tipped to start the day off with a winner for those connections in the JLT Novices Chase (1:30pm). Walsh’s mount was second in the 2012 Neptune here and holds strong claims and he prefers him to stable mate Djakadam, however overnight watering of the track may go against him. The English raider Wonderful Charm also has a massive chance for Paul Nicholls.
In the Pertemps (2:05pm), top weight Fingal Bay may have enough class to shoulder top weight for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs but in a twenty four runner affair it is wide open. Under bottom weight, Josies Orders gets in for JP McManus and Jonjo O’ Neill with claimer Maurice Lenihan taking a further 5lb off he may run a big race following an impressive Huntingdon display in January.
The Ryanair Chase (2:40pm) is a wide open affair but Tony Martin is coy on the chances of Benefficient who has some solid form in the book and he beat second favourite Dynaste by three lengths last year. Doubts surround the classy Al Ferof who has a fantastic record around Cheltenham.
The Byrne Group Plate (4:00pm) and the Kim Muir conclude racing and are wide open affairs that are better off watched than getting stuck in betting wise due to the enormous fields.
Featured Image By Dan Heap (Flickr: It’s easy for Annie) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Pundit Arena – Michael Dorgan (@M_Dorgan)