This year’s Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle, one of the highlights of day three of The Festival, St Patrick’s Thursday, 15 March, has attracted a record entry of 61.
The latest four renewals of the three-mile contest have been dominated by Big Buck’s but the absence of the Paul Nicholls-trained record-breaking star this year with a tendon injury ensures that there will be a new name on the roll of honour. Nicholls is responsible for six contenders including 12-year-old Tidal Bay, who recorded a third Grade One success over fences with a thrilling victory in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December.
Tidal Bay, who could bid to become the oldest ever winner of the race, captured the Grade Two Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January, 2010, and runs in the Andrea and Graham Wylie silks that were carried to Ladbrokes World Hurdle victory on three occasions by Inglis Drever.
Nicholls may also be represented by last season’s William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fifth Prospect Wells, the 2009 Stan James Champion Hurdle runner-up Celestial Halo, dual Grade One-winning chaser Kauto Stone, easy Chepstow Grade Two scorer Wonderful Charm and classy Flat recruit Aaim To Prosper.
Nicky Henderson has seven contenders headed by last season’s fifth Oscar Whisky, who has posted a pair of emphatic Grade Two wins this season, most recently when beating the Tom George-trained Crack Away Jack in the Osborne House Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on 15 December.
A strong challenge from the master of Seven Barrows also features Riverside Theatre, who captured the Grade One Ryanair Chase at The Festival in 2012, recent Lanzarote Hurdle scorer Oscara Dara and Grade Two winner General Miller. Talented chaser Roberto Goldback, Minella Class and Bear’s Affair complete the Henderson-trained septet.
Willie Mullins is responsible for 10 of the 17 Irish-trained entries. Quevega has captured the four latest renewals of the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at The Festival and also posted a hat-trick of Grade One wins in the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle at Punchestown. The superstar mare’s owners have also engaged last year’s fourth Thousand Stars, who annexed a third Grade One in June with victory in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil.
The long-absent Fiveforthree won the Neptune Investement Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2008, while Zaidpour defeated the Noel Meade-trained Monksland in the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December. Back In Focus, a Grade One winner over fences this term, Make Your Mark, Marasonnien, Midnight Game, Prince Du Beauchene and So Young could also represent Mullins.
Bog Warrior landed the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase last season but the Tony Martin-trained nine-year-old has been impressive over the smaller obstacles on his two latest starts, most recently when easily dispatching of the Charles Byrnes-trained Solwhit at Punchestown on 31 December.
Dermot Weld has entered Rite Of Passage, who finished third at The Festival in both the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2009 and the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle 12 months later. The nine-year-old has subsequently proven himself to be an exceptional stayer on the Flat with victories in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2010 and the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup at the same course in October after a long absence.
The Irish challenge is completed by the Robbie Hennessy-trained Mossley, second to Bobs Worth in the 2011 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle when in the care of Nicky Henderson, Won In The Dark, representing Sabrina Harty and Whatuthink, from the stable of Oliver McKiernan.
David Pipe has given entries to the 2009 runner-up Grands Crus and Dynaste, who was eighth behind Big Buck’s last year. Both horses have subsequently gone on to Grade One glory over fences, with scintillating victories in the past two renewals of the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
Peddlers Cross, winner of the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle in 2010 and runner-up in the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 2011, also proved himself to be a talented chaser last term but looks set to return to the smaller obstacle after disappointing in the Jewson Novices’ Chase at The Festival last year. His trainer Donald McCain could also run Hollow Tree and Any Given Day.
The Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola (pictured) was second to Big Buck’s at Newbury on 1 December and subsequently posted an impressive victory over Smad Place, one of four entries from Alan King, and the Tim Easterby-trained Trustan Times in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on 22 December.
Other contenders include Get Me Out Of Here, who has been second on all three of his starts at The Festival for Jonjo O’Neill, plus exciting novices Coneygree, who is trained by Mark Bradstock, and the John Ferguson-trained Whispering Gallery, who beat Bergo (Gary Moore) in a Group Three Flat contest at Meydan, Dubai, last year.