Big Buck’s (7/4 favourite with LadbrokesBoylesports.com) features among 29 entries for the £275,000 Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle, the three-mile hurdling championship on day three of The Festival, St Patrick’s Thursday, March 13.
The 11-year-old is undefeated in 18 starts over hurdles in Britain and captured an unprecedented fourth consecutive Ladbrokes World Hurdle at The Festival in 2012. Injury prevented him from defending his crown in 2013, but he is on course to return in the £60,000 Grade Two galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 25, when he will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for the first time.
His trainer Paul Nicholls holds a strong hand with Celestial Halo (14/1) and Zarkandar(14/1), winners of the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in 2008 and 2011 respectively, also engaged along with improving five-year-old Saphir Du Rheu (12/1) and Salubrious (25/1).
Reve De Sivola (12/1) made it back-to-back wins in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 21, beating Salubrious decisively by 10 lengths. The Nick Williams-trained nine-year-old has been in good form this season and also captured a Grade One contest at Auteuil in early November. He finished fourth in last year’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
Williams reported: ”Reve De Sivola will definitely go for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. He is fine at the moment and there have been no problems since Ascot.
“I reckon he replicated his performance there from the previous year. For whatever reason, he was just full of himself that day.
“He is one of these horses who goes through good spots and bad spots, and it just happens to be that he comes right at Ascot. He loves the course, loves the ground and enjoyed making the running.
“I don’t know if he will have a prep run. I think last year’s Cleeve Hurdle may have taken the edge off him before The Festival, but I don’t like going three months without a race and you could say the run at Newbury helped him for the Ascot race – that was a 21-day gap.
“The options are the Cleeve Hurdle (Cheltenham, January 25) and the Rendlesham Hurdle (Haydock Park, February 15), but it depends on what other people are doing because you don’t want to meet Oscar Whisky-type horses.
“He will run in the World Hurdle no matter what the ground is like. Obviously, it will make a slight difference to his chance as he is better on soft ground, but is perfectly OK on good ground.”
Owner J P McManus could be represented by At Fishers Cross (10/1), trained in Wales by Rebecca Curtis, and Jonjo O’Neill’s lightly-raced six-year-old More Of That (6/1).
At Fishers Cross was undefeated in six starts last season and captured the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival, but has been let down by his jumping in two starts this term, while More Of That completed a four-timer when brushing aside Salubrious in the Grade Two Osborne House Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 14.
Willie Mullins houses six of the 10 Irish-trained entries, with star mares Annie Power(7/2) and Quevega (not quoted by Boylesports) heading the sextet. Annie Power, also entered in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at The Festival, is nine from nine under Rules, while Quevega has won the last five renewals of the Grade Two OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at The Festival and is likely to go for a record six-timer this year.
Mullins has also entered Grade One-winning hurdlers Boston Bob (10/1), Thousand Stars (33/1) and Zaidpour (25/1), as well as French import Rubi Ball (25/1).
The Irish challenge could also include high-class performer Monksland (14/1), who has been off the track for over a year, Dedigout (33/1), Mala Beach (33/1) and Rule The World (25/1).