The World Hurdle, dear reader, was formerly known as the Stayer's Hurdle. Why? Because it's for horses with stamina, natch! Run over 3m, a new champion will be crowned this year, due to the absence of three time winner, Inglis Drever.
Who will fill the considerable void left by that venerable veteran? Let's use some statistics to have a look...
There are 23 possible starters, though I reckon no more than 16 will actually line up.
- Gavin's Cheltenham Trends Book's killer stat is that the last 21 winners finished in the first 4 last time out. This eliminates nine, including Afsoun, Blazing Bailey, Mighty Man and Hardy Eustace.
- Aside from the Drever last season, this has been monopolised by 6-8 year olds. We'll lose another two (Lough Derg and Powerstation, probably both headed for handicaps anyway)
- This is a terrible race for the Irish with no winner for 14 years. Five more bite the dust, including Aitmatov and Catch Me.
Seven left now: Big Bucks, Duc de Regniere, Fair Along, Kasbah Bliss, Mobaasher, Punchestowns, and Tazbar.
Alas, this list includes six of the first seven in the betting!
- Lightly raced sorts have it, with all ten of the last winners running thrice or less that season prior to Cheltenham. Duc de R, and the valiant Fair Along are overexposed for the season.
- Again, thanks to Gavin's Cheltenham guide for this stat: the last eight winners were 1st or 2nd on all runs that season. Big Bucks (unseated), Mobaasher (3rd), and Tazbar (5th and 3rd) fail this stat.
So, that leaves us with Kasbah Bliss and Punchestowns, the favourite and second favourite. This is heartening, given that the winner has come from the top four in the betting for each of the last eight runnings.
Kasbah Bliss laughed at some decent rivals last time out, and was the only one to make a race of it with Inglis Drever in the corresponding event last year. Punchestowns has been beaten in two of his three Cheltenham starts, and I confidently take Kasbah to add to Francois Doumen's excellent race record (2 wins, 3 places, from 9 runners in recent seasons).
11/8 may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I believe this horse to be a real star and still improving. Bar a fall? He's my nap of the meeting... and I reckon he'll be odds on come March 12th.