The markets have returned to some order now and provided they all stay healthy we dont see there being a big change in the prices of the main World Hurdle Contenders between now and March. There might still be a little uncertainty about final targets for a few runners but of the big guns Oscar Whisky will go for the race with Quevega will be heading to the Mares Hurdle.
Quevega has been considered by many observers to be at least the second best staying hurdler in these islands for some time. Big Bucks never does too much in front but the form lines with Voler La Vedette last season suggest if there was one horse who might have served it up to Big Bucks it was Quevega.
We will hardly find out now and it seems a clash with Big Bucks was never on the cards with Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and the Hammer & Trowel Syndicate happy to mop up the significant but still lesser Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham and Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown. Connections now find themselves in something of a quandry ...will they go the "easy route" and go after a historic fifth successive Mares title or go after Thursdays feature in the World Hurdle ? The latest soundings indicate that a crack at a record equalling fifth consequetive Mares Hurdle is the preference.
Oscar Whisky has been the outstanding two and a half mile hurdler in these islands and would be considered a real Champion Hurdle contender if the ground turned up soft at the Festival.
When we first looked at this race in December (and Oscar Whisky was 7/1) we suggested that the horse staying three miles was at at best unknown while noting that jockey and trainer had both suggested that last years World Hurdle was not his true running. After the Relkeel Hurdle and before Big Bucks unfortunate injury Barry Geraghty wrote in his ATR blog :
It's probably not fair to condemn him over three miles because the feel he gave me on Saturday was that he'd be fine over that distance on good ground. I don't think he ran up to his best form in the World Hurdle last season. I'm not for one moment saying he should have beaten Big Buck's but he's certainly as good or better than the second that day, Voler La Verdette but he didn't get to the last. He gave me the impression on Saturday that he should be getting further and if Big Buck's wasn't there then you'd definitely be going for the World Hurdle again. That said, if it was soft ground in Marth then you'd fancy a crack at the Champion Hurdle. Whatever he does and wherever he goes he's a fine hurdler of the highest rank and is going to be extremely difficult to beat over his ideal trip of two and a half.
After Henderson commented:
Barry and I both just said when he wins like that how can he not stay three miles. I'm not saying we're going down the three-mile route but I'm sure there was something wrong with him that day in March (World Hurdle). He can come here again in January and go to Ffos Las but if the entries closed for Cheltenham tomorrow goodness knows what we'd put him in.
Things have moved on since and after the 2013 Cleeve Hurdle most consider that the horse stays well enough. You will get a flavour of tipster and analyst thinking about the horse on our Oscar Whisky forum thread. Henderson was quoted as saying he is 90% certain he goes for the World Hurdle. BetVictor go 9/2 about the horse with their NRFB concession but we would be happy enough to take the 5/1 available with Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Stan James.
Peddlers Cross won the 2010 Neptune Novice Hurdle over 2m5f and was second in the 2011 Champion Hurdle but somewhat lost his way over fences last season. He is being prepared for a hurdling campaign this year with trainer Donald McCain advising on December 12th :
He galloped this morning, we're very happy with at the moment, but we're not ready yet, We will be looking towards going for the race at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, but it's a possibility he still won't be quite ready by then, we're just going to let him tell us when he is. We didn't get him back in too early and he did very well over the summer. It's just taken longer than we hoped (to get him ready), but there's no harm in that.
He was since defeated in a bumpers for jumpers race by Sam Winner and the Champion Hurdle also remains an option. If you do fancy him he may be another to consider backing with the BetVictor NRFB concession ( or waiting for others to go NRNB) on the race.
Solwhit has been another market mover and now seems set to run.