THE headline race on Thursday looks as open as ever. Can Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) find the winner for us?
Cheltenham 15:20 | World Hurdle | Channel 4
This is another one of the Festival Championship races that is missing a real superstar. For this reason I thought Rock on Ruby was a good thing in the race, but sadly he wasn’t seen fit to take part, and my ante post bet is now firmly in the bookmakers back pocket.
Looking at the race now I struggle to see anything stand out. At Fishers Cross has never developed into the horse he threatened to become after his easy wins in the Albert Bartlett and Sefton Novice Hurdles in 2013, and it looks like his best days are behind him.
Reve De Sivola is a game stayer, and in heavy ground is a different proposition, but he’s another I can confidently rule out under Thursday’s conditions.
Lieutenant Colonel looks the pick of the Irish challenge, but there doesn’t appear to be much strength and depth in the staying division over there just now, and I feel that this is one race that will be staying in the UK.
Paul Nichols has a strong hand with Zarkandar and Saphir Du Rheu and he must have a chance of adding to Wednesday’s Queen Mother victory.
Zarkandar, fourth in Hurricane Fly’s first Champion Hurdle win, has gradually stepped up in trip, finishing fourth in this last year, and gaining a three mile Grade 1 in Auteuil in November. I see him as Paul Nichols first string, but I think there is a potential improver in the field that could spoil his big day.
Un Temps Pour Tout, trained by David Pipe has had four starts in the UK and possesses a progressive profile. Hacking up in a novice hurdle on his second start for Pipe, he then came third carrying top weight in the Setanta Handicap at the Punchestown Festival.
On his one start this season he came third to Saphir Du Rheu, where he travelled well before being outpaced close home. As this was his first start in seven months up against race fit opponents it was a good effort and I would expect significant improvement. Available to back at 9/1 I make him a great each way bet.
Cheltenham 15:20 – Un Temps Pour Tout each way (9/1 BetBright)