Sport Cheltenham

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Cheltenham 2014: Play or lay the big four

Barry Orr

Published 09/03/2014 | 02:30

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Guide to Chelenham 2014's big four.

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CHAMPION HURDLE

The excitement and anticipation of this year's Champion Hurdle is reaching fever pitch as record-breaker Hurricane Fly looks to cement his place in racing history with a remarkable 20th Grade One victory. English hopes rest on the shoulders of last year's Neptune winner The New One and the JP McManus-owned, My Tent Or Yours. The latter drifted out to 10/1 last week on the back of an injury scare but has since settled at 6/1, having been backed at an ante-post low of 3/1 on the Betfair Exchange. The form book indicates that minor improvement from Our Conor could see him beat the Fly and Jezki cannot be discounted if ridden more positively. Hurricane Fly became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain his crown having lost it, but it's going to take a lung bursting effort and maybe a career-best performance from the now 10-year-old to see-off the young guns. A lay bet is recommended.

Verdict: Lay Hurricane Fly

CHAMPION CHASE

In the absence of Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy has been the dominant player in the two-mile chasing division this season, rattling off three successive wins since finishing second to Kid Cassidy when odds-on at Cheltenham in November last year. At current Exchange odds of 9/4, he will be a warm order with backers. The Mouse Morris-trained Baily Green is sure to be primed for a big run and last year's Arkle runner-up will strip fitter for a recent outing over hurdles. Captain Conan also has the ability to bustle up the favourite while Kid Cassidy could uphold the form of their November encounter. Without Sprinter Sacre, this race is a wide-open affair and at 9/4 Sire De Grugy represents a lay bet.

Verdict: Lay Sire De Grugy

WORLD HURDLE

Four-time World Hurdle winner Big Buck's is back for another bite having been ruled out last season due to injury, but this time around he will face the undefeated mare, Annie Power. The Willie Mullins-trained runner is 10 out of 10 in race victories and since confirmation that this race, and not the Champion Hurdle, was connections' preferred Festival target, she has been 9/4 favourite to make it 11 straight wins. Uncertainty over her target has seen Annie Power matched at 239/1 on the Betfair Exchange and although she is yet to race beyond 2m 4f, I'm confident she will stay the trip well in Prestbury Park. Having ridden Big Buck's in all four of his World Hurdle victories, Ruby Walsh will know what it takes to beat the best staying hurdler racing has ever known. A back bet is the play.

Verdict: Back Annie Power

GOLD CUP

Following Bobs Worth's disappointing display in Haydock Park's Betfair Chase, he drifted out to 13/2 in the Gold Cup ante-post market on our Sportsbook, but those odds now look very generous since he confirmed his well-being with an ultra-impressive display in Leopardstown's Lexus Chase. Currently a 15/8 chance to land a second Gold Cup, the Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old is the embodiment of the old racing adage 'horses for courses', having won all five races he has contested in Cheltenham, three at the Festival. It's been a testing season for Henderson's Seven Barrows yard, losing several high-profile horses which had lit up recent Festivals, but Bobs Worth is expected to give the Champion Trainer consecutive wins in chasing's biggest prize. A back bet is recommended.

Verdict: Back Bobs Worth

Barry Orr is Betfair's PR Manager UK & Ireland

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