Day three of the Cheltenham festival will feature a total of six races including the wide-open Ladbrokes World Hurdle. There are still doubts as to whether last year’s champion More of That will take part after the Jonjo O’Neill-trained seven-year-old broke a blood vessel during training. The latest tests have been positive but his connections will leave it a late as possible before making a final decision on his inclusion. The uncertainty has caused price fluctuations in the betting markets but those willing to take a punt can still get a price of around 9/1 (10.00) at the Betfair exchange.
Last year’s runner-up Annie Power looks certain to miss out after trainer Willie Mullins entered the seven-year-old in the Mares’ Hurdle. The decision has been prompted by the mare’s slow recovery from an injury picked up in December.
Other contenders in an open field include former Champion Hurdle winner Rock on Ruby who has gained plenty of admirers after a solid season over shorter distances. However, a cloud of doubt still remains over the three-mile stamina of the Harry Fry-trained horse who can be backed at 8/1 (9.00) with Bet365.
Perhaps the most likely challengers to More of That’s crown are the duo of entries from trainer Paul Nicholls. Zakander won the 2011 Triumph Hurdle and has been trained specifically with this three mile trip in mind after finishing fourth last year. He blotted his copy book slightly when losing the lead to Reve De Sivola in December’s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
Saphir Du Rheu still has a bit to prove at Grade 1 level after a poor run over fences prompted a switch back to hurdles. Since that decision was made, a win in the Cleeve Hurdle has restored some confidence in the six-year-old who can be backed as 11/2 (6.5) favourite with several bookies.
Punters looking for value could do worse than look at the Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola. The ten-year-old caused a stir by beating Zarkandar at Ascot back in in December as was just a head down to Saphir Du Rheu at the Cheltenham trials. With a best price of 25/1 (26.00) available, there should be plenty of each-way interest.
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