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By Dylan Jenear ValueChecker

Horse by Horse Guide to the Ladbrokes World Hurdle
16/03/11

ANY GIVEN DAY
Tough and genuine gelding who has improved this season, winning a Listed handicap at Chepstow in October and in the frame in all four starts since, three of which were graded races. However, he was beaten a fair way behind Cross Kennon at Haydock last time, and that was his first try at 3m, so he has to prove his stamina. In any case, he’s likely to be outclassed.

Ashkazar
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Ashkazar
ASHKAZAR
Not the most straightforward, but capable of very smart form on his day and dispelled any doubts regarding his stamina when landing a competitive 17-runner handicap over the World Hurdle C&D on New Year’s Day. Has no form in the book to suggest he can trouble the likes of Big Buck’s and stable companion Grands Crus, though.

BERTIES DREAM
Tends to race prominently and fairly consistent. Successful four times over hurdles last term, enjoying his finest hour over this C&D when landing the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2010 Festival. Failed to live up to expectations switched to fences earlier this season and well held back over timber at Navan on his latest start. Hard to fancy.

BIG BUCK’S
Looked sure to play a part in the finish when unseating rider at the last in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, and has won all 10 starts back over hurdles subsequently, including the last two renewals on this contest. Has coasted home in both outings so far this term, suggesting that is as good as ever, and will be hard to beat in his bid to win this race for an historic third time.

CELESTIAL HALO
Represents the same trainer-owner combination as Big Buck’s. Very smart on his day, winner of the 2008 Triumph Hurdle at this meeting and was runner-up in the Champion Hurdle a month later. Not quite at the same level since (including when tried over fences), although there’s nothing wrong with his last couple of efforts, winning a Grade 2 at Fontwell last time. Each-way claims.

CROSS KENNON
Thorough stayer who has raised his game this season, winning two of his four starts, including a Grade 2 in decisive fashion at Haydock last time, beating Bensalem by six lengths (the latter franked the form when winning here on Tuesday). Goes well here – he was fourth in the 2010 Pertemps Final at this meeting – but he will struggle to live with the likes of Big Buck’s and Grands Crus.

FIVEFORTHREE
Has had his fair share of injury problems, but he’s a very classy hurdler. Landed the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle on just his second start over timber at the 2008 Festival, and proved his wellbeing when returning from the best part of two years off with an easy victory at Punchestown last month. Stays this trip well and merits respect, but his best form has come on softer ground.

GRANDS CRUS
A revelation this season, slamming 16 rivals in a 2m 5f handicap here on his reappearance in November, and deeply impressive stepped up to this trip in two subsequent starts, routing the opposition in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle over C&D last time. Has quicker ground to contend with this time, but hard to know quite how far he will go, so he rates a live danger to Big Buck’s.

MOURAD
Stablemate of Fiveforthree, and jockey bookings suggest he’s Willie Mullin’s first-string. Travels strongly in his races and has won his last two starts in good style, proving six lengths too strong for Moskova at Gowran Park when last seen out in January. Major each-way claims, but, like Mullins’ other contender, he does appear to be at his best when there’s plenty of give underfoot.

POWERSTATION
Now 11 years of age and has been a grand servant to connections, winning two graded contests in this sphere and has run countless solid races in defeat, including in this race, finishing third to Big Buck’s in the last two renewals of the World Hurdle. However, well held behind Mourad the last twice and it would be a major surprise if he makes a serious impact.

RESTLESS HARRY
Landed a Grade 2 at this track as a novice last season and would surely have been placed in the Albert Bartlett but for falling at the last in the C&D Albert Bartlett at the 2010 Festival. Game sort who will give it a good shot from the front, but he has been put in his place behind Big Buck’s and Grands Crus at Newbury and at this track respectively already this term.

RIGOUR BOB BACK
By no means a mug, winning a Grade 2 at Navan in December and has since been placed behind Mourad at Leopardstown and Voler La Vedette when returning to Navan last month. Looks a rank outsider here, though.

SOUFFLEUR
Capable performer on his day, taking form to a new level when landing a Grade 2 in the mud at Haydock last season, and chased home Big Buck’s in a Grade 1 at Aintree’s Grand National meeting last spring. Absent since, however, and likely to struggle.

ZAYNAR
Winner of the Triumph Hurdle at this meeting in 2009 and landed his first two starts last season. However, while he was far from disgraced when third in the 2010 Champion Hurdle, he was disappointing at Aintree on his final start of last term, and hasn’t been anywhere near his best in two starts so far during the current campaign. No more than minor place claims.

CONCLUSION:
The heart says Grands Crus, but the head says Big Buck's. Had there been more cut in the ground, Grands Crus and Irish raiders Fiveforthree and Mourad would have been greatly feared, but Big Buck's has some engine and, with the sound surface no problem at all, Paul Nicholls' star hurdler can succeed where the last great staying hurdler Baracouda failed, by winning this race for a third season in succession.

Recommendation: BIG BUCK'S

 

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