Will the sensational Big Buck’s be fit enough for another crack at world domination?
What happened in the 2013 Ladbrokes World Hurdle?
With no four-time winning World Hurdle legend Big Buck’s amongst the runners, it had the feel of an open renewal and Solwhit stepped up to the plate, giving Ireland their first win in this Grade One since Dorans Pride in 1995.
It was a step into the unknown for the classy hurdler, who had spent most of his career either injured or staring at the backside of Hurricane Fly over two miles, but under a patient ride by Paul Carberry he showed that three miles is well within his grasp. In fact, he relished it.
The nine-year-old, who went off at 17/2 and wasn’t unfancied by any stretch of the imagination, was held up off a strong pace set by fellow Irish raider Bog Warrior and came through a battle with the surprise second, Celestial Halo, in the closing stages.
The proximity of Paul Nicholls’ journeyman hurdler in second certainly brings forward the argument that a fit Big Buck’s would have chewed these rivals up and spat them out.
Best not to get too carried away with this form, although Solwhit did go onto win the John Smith’s Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree a few weeks later.
Never has a race revolved more around the well-being of one horse.
Big Buck’s, who has won this race four times and is unbeaten over hurdles in the UK, claimed the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last December on what turned out to be his only start of the season after he suffered a leg injury.
Trainer Paul Nicholls is keen to get him back to the racecourse this season and has earmarked the end of January or even the World Hurdle itself as his potential comeback race.
As a ten-year-old though coming back from injuries of that nature will be tough – any setback over the winter and there’s a good opportunity he’ll be retired.
The race needs him though as his brilliance has breathed life into what was a very stale portion of the Festival.
If he’s back to his best then all his rivals will be playing for second place, however, like 2013, if he doesn’t make it, then this race is wide open.
Solwhit will be back to defend his crown, but it’s the young pretenders that may be heading the market in Big Buck’s absence.
At Fishers Cross was a really gutsy winner of the Albert Bartlett and is being kept to hurdles while Zarkandar, who has three Grade Ones to his name, is reportedly exciting Nicholls ahead of a step up to three miles.
Betting advice: strong race trends
The last 13 winners of the World Hurdle could have been found in the first four in the betting.
It’s easy to think that statistic might be skewed due to the dominance of the likes of Inglis Drever and Big Bucks, however, the horses that have finished behind them have also been amongst the market leaders.
This suggests that the markets usually have it spot on and it’s hard for an outsider to compete against the classier horses.
In fact, backing the top five in the market in combination forecasts and tricasts would have made you a substantial profit over the last 10 years.
The Cleeve Hurdle and the Long Walk Hurdle, both mopped up by Big Buck’s in recent years, have been the most applicable guide to the World Hurdle.
World Hurdle Ante post tip
Big Buck’s is unbackable at this point, even at 4/1, due to his current injury situation. This opens up the market for value hunters.
At this stage, we’re inclined to take the view that Zarkandar at 7/1 with William Hill looks the value call.