Simon Rowlands returns to provide you with analysis of the sectional times from Cheltenham...
In the end, it was not enough to see Annie Power home in front, as the unbeaten More of That took her measure from the last...
Before the 2014 World Hurdle it was unclear what kind of pace there would be. Short-priced favourite Annie Power was considered a doubtful stayer in some quarters, so would her rivals seek to test her stamina with a strong pace, or would they seek to test her ability to settle?
Well, it wasn't the former, as the sectionals show. The race was run over the same 3m hurdle course as the earlier Pertemps Final, a truly-run contest with a big field of useful handicappers. The official time difference between the two races can be called into question: it was given as 2.5s, when 0.9s seems more accurate.
Yet, despite that slightly faster overall time in the World Hurdle than the Pertemps Final, the leader in the former was around 3.9 seconds slower to halfway than the leader in the latter.
This gap had closed to about 2.3s by two out, and the finish from there was the second-fastest of recent years, only slightly behind that of Big Buck's in 2011. In the end, it was not enough to see Annie Power home in front, as the unbeaten More of That took her measure from the last. But the margins back to the remainder should be viewed in the context of this not having been a solid test of stamina. There may well be more to come from the first two yet.
The Ryanair Chase 40 minutes earlier on the card resulted in the fastest finish in the race of recent years, with Dynaste running from three out in 56.4s. But this race has been notable for some strong paces and slowish finishes (and has twice been run on softer ground than this year) and it can be considered to have been run at a true pace all the same. Dynaste came from a few lengths back for an authoritative win.
The JLT Novices' Chase and the Byrne Group Plate were both run over two and a half miles. The former was run in a time about 3.5s faster than the latter, which reflects quite well on the winner, Taquin Du Seuil.
Sectionals show that the novices went a good pace early before steadying things briefly approaching halfway (0.8s ahead compared to 2.2s ahead after the fourth) then increased their advantage until late on. The times from three out for both races were similar (55.7s for the JLT and 55.4s for the Byrne Group).
Racing on Thursday took place on the New Course, whereas the first two days had been on the Old Course, and times overall suggested conditions were slightly slower. Clerk of The Course Simon Claisse "selectively" watered overnight and there seems no reason, in this instance, to quibble with the official going description of "good, good to soft in places".
The final day's racing on Friday - Gold Cup Day - will also take place on the New Course.