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Ryanair World Hurdle

The liver might be considerably well lubricated, the head might be thumping and the wallet might be significantly lighter, but we're only halfway through the Cheltenham Festival - it's time to get back on the horse and out there again for Day Three!

Making his blog debut to cover the longest championship event over the minor obstacles, it's Paddy Savage, @PaddySav.

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Ryanair World Hurdle
Grade 1, £300k, Three Miles (+/- 10 yds)
1530 local time


Ted Walsh may have been correct that "nobody ever bred a horse to win a World Hurdle" but that detracts little from the glory to be bestowed upon winners of this championship race. Maligned though it may occasionally be, the Day 3 feature has been responsible for many of the great Cheltenham memories in recent times, whether they be the scenes of joy which greeted Warren Greatex's first Cheltenham festival winner last term or the drama which unfolded as Big Buck's denied an inspired ride from Andrew Lynch on Voler La Vedette to claim a fourth World Hurdle in 2012.

This year's renewal appears to revolve around one horse. Colin Tizzard's Thistlecrack was an absentee at last year's festival but his Imperial Cup fifth was succeeded by Grade One glory at Aintree and an unlucky second to Killutagh Vic in top class company at Punchestown last April. Novice potential has very much been fulfilled this season with the mount of Tom Scudamore claiming each of the major staying hurdle trials at Newbury, Ascot and then at Prestbury Park in January. There appear to be few chinks in the armour of this son of Kayf Tara who enters the fray having shown himself to be the best staying hurdler of the season and who boosts form at Spring festivals in the book.

But the likely prices of around even money make little appeal in a competitive heat so it may be worth searching for the value elsewhere. Drying ground is unlikely to suit the Irish challenge of Alpha Des Obeaux, Martello Tower and Lieutenant Colonel, while a sad Kilcooley can probably be excluded on similar grounds. The best form of both Bob's Worth and Knockara Beau is sufficiently distant as to render them unlikely challengers while last year's second Saphir Du Rheu has endured another mishmash of a campaign as connections struggle to identify his most suitable challenge. The other Paul Nicholls runner, Aux Ptits Soins, hasn't been seen on a racecourse since winning the Coral Cup on his British debut in last year's Coral Cup and it is surely too much to ask to be competitive in this exalted company.

The three which make most appeal at each way prices are At Fishers Cross, Cole Harden and Whisper. Each share two significant characteristics; a likeness for decent ground and form in open company at the Spring festivals. At Fishers Cross has been third and fourth in the previous two renewals of this race but although odds of 40/1 make some appeal, it is perhaps asking too much to suggest that Rebecca Curtis' charge could bridge a three-year gap since last visiting the winner's enclosure.

The chance of Cole Harden is obvious; the reigning champion in a division which has lent itself to repeat successes, he has a notable preference for the drying ground likely to prevail on Thursday afternoon. With front running tactics likely to be employed, there is little doubt that Waren Greatex's charge may prove difficult to catch but, despite the trainer's notable confidence, at 7/1 and facing a strong field, the value appears to be gone.

Of more interest is a horse which had 3 1/2 lengths to spare over Cole Harden in last year's Liverpool Hurdle. That excellent effort was WHISPER's second such triumph in that Grade One event and it followed a very creditable World Hurdle fifth on his seasonal debut. With the stable fresh from excellent performances in Tuesday's grade one hurdles, it is possible that a less interrupted preparation will allow Nicky Henderson to get this son of Astrabad to the festival in ideal condition. Form this season could hardly be less inspiring but at twice the likely odds of Cole Harden, it is perhaps worth taking a chance that Whisper's spring extravaganza may come a month earlier in 2016.

So whilst it would be no surprise to see Thistlecrack's connections rejoice, a quiet word to your bookmaker about Nico De Boinville's mount could possibly yield a profit.

Recommendation: Back Whisper each way at a general 14/1

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