Former Talksport man Charlie McCann examines Thursday’s Cheltenham card and has six tips for us. View Selections below
The World Hurdle is Thursday’s Cheltenham feature with Big Buck’s looking to emulate the mare Quevega and win the same race at the Festival four years on the bounce.
The 9-y-old has won his last 15 races since unseating Sam Thomas at the last in the 2008 Hennessy and has been an odds on favourite in no less than 12 of those races. Paul Nicholls’ hurdling great will be odds on again on Thursday and must take the beating although this looks a slightly stronger field than last year when he beat Grand Crus.
It is well-documented that Big Buck’s can hit a flat spot in his races but his rivals have been trying to find a way to beat him, unsuccessfully, for over three years and it would be a shock if he met with defeat on Thursday. Oscar Whisky finished 3rd in the Champion Hurdle last year but does he have the stamina for the step up to 3m? I think the petrol will be empty inside the final furlong but if he stays he would give the favourite plenty to think about.
The mare Voler La Vedette didn’t impress the only time she ran at Cheltenham and will need to settle better than has on occasions if she is going to get home; she is a class act on her day but it is impossible to look beyond Big Buck’s (3.20) who can rewrite the staying hurdle record books.
The Ryanair Chase is the other Grade 1 event with Albertas Run looking for a mere hat-trick in the race; tough as old boots he has been off the track since winning at Aintree back in October but Jonjo O’Neill can certainly get them ready for the day and he must go very close.
The ground has gone against Rubi Light it would appear and backers of captain Chris may know their fate early doors; I certainly wouldn’t wish to be on the outside of the horse coming to the first given his tendency (alarming last time) to jump out to the right.
Riverside Theatre would have been a confident selection on a flat track but he didn’t seem in love with the place in the Arkle a couple of years ago and is overlooked. I just give the nod to last year’s Jewson winner Noble Prince (2.40) who will love the ground and has been running over inadequate trips on ground too soft this winter in Ireland.
The card opens with the Jewson Novices’ Chase and all the Donald McCain horses ran well on the first day which must give encouragement to those who have been followers of Peddlers Cross (1.30) who was the best of these over hurdles, has an excellent record on the track and looked a natural over fences prior to running into Sprinter Sacre over Xmas.
Ruby Walsh rides Cristal Bonus for Nicholls which is a surprise given Sir Des Champs has been very well-touted in recent weeks. Champion Court will ensure there is no hanging about and it promises to be a cracking heat; the vibes haven’t been good for Peddlers Cross coming into the race but he is reported to have worked more like his old self on Saturday and if on song is the one to beat. Note place a £20 bet on the Jewson on Thursday with betvictor.com and irrespective of whether your horse wins or loses you will have your £20 refunded as a free bet for the opening Triumph Hurdle on Friday.
We are betting ¼ odds first 5 in the Pertemps Hurdle and I think Sonofvic looks interesting back over timber. Connections want another crack chasing next season but he has been laid out for this race for some time. It is a wide open contest and the pin has come down on Pineau De Re (2.05) who can reverse recent form with Sergent Guib’s with his conditional jockey taking off a valuable 7lbs.
Salut Flo has been one of the taking horses in the build up to this years Festival with every other pundit mentioning David Pipe’s unexposed chaser. It is possible he could make every yard of the running and win easily but he may go off too short and Finger On The Pulse (4.00) is a speculative each way selection given he is ridden by an outstanding conditional and is very well handicapped on his best form. He won at the Festival 4 years ago and can show he is no back-number.
The Kim Muir is a favourite race of mine and Mostly Bob (4.40) and Midnight Appeal are my two against the field with preference for the Hobbs’ runner who bounced back to form last time. The stable had a winner on the opening day and although he is not perhaps the ideal conveyance for an amateur his inexperienced amateur had a winner at Wincanton earlier in the week.