World Hurdle, 3m, Thursday, 3.30pm
Key Stat: Five World Hurdle winners and four runners-up have prepped for this in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, since 2005
This is the weakest of the big four championship races at the Festival from a trends perspective. But backing the defending title holder, whose record reads 10121111 since 1998 (bodes well for Cole Harden) or second-season hurdlers (like Thistlecrack) who have won 12 other times during that time period, has been the way to go.
No five-year-old has won the World Hurdle since it was introduced into the Festival and no 11-year-old has won since Crimson Embers in 1986.
Colin Tizzard’s Thistlecrack is going to start a short-priced favourite having won the three most significant guides at Newbury, Ascot and Cheltenham this season, with ease.
Nine of the last 11 winners won last time out and his latest success came in the Cleeve Hurdle which has been the key recent guide to this contest since it was upped from 2m 5f to 3m in 2005.
Last year’s victor Cole Harden became the first winner in 15 years who failed to start in the first four in the betting when making all last year. His starting price of 14/1 was also a blip on the trends data.
Just Charles Byrnes’ Solwhit has won for Irish trainers since Dorans Pride in 1995 (but the Emerald Isle have had six runners-up in that time).
Their main hope this year looks to be Alpha Des Obeaux ,though the Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February (won by Snow Falcon) has provided five of the last six Irish-trained winners.