Trends & Stats
All winners ran at least six times before over hurdles
The last 25 winners finished in the first four last time out
This race has never been won by a five-year-old before
Only two horses aged over eight have won this since 1990 (Inglis Driver, 2008, nine years old, Big Bucks, 2012, nine years old)
There has never been a 10-year-old win this and only one 11-year-old 1986 Crimson Embers
No Irish winner for 18 years
My Leading Contenders
Probably the best horse in the race but I have never been convinced he gets a truly run 3m, so don't know entirely what to make of his second behind Reve De Sivola at Cheltenham Trials' Day. I'm of the opinion that because he goes so well on heavy ground that it may have exaggerated his ability to stay. The likely faster pace on better ground at the Festival on the long run-in of the New Course would worry me.
Reve De Sivola
Won the Long Walk in style and just beat Oscar Whisky in the Cleeve Hurdle, but not sure whether he needs softer ground to be seen at his best. Has run well at the Festival in the past.
Third in last year's Neptune and another who may well be best on soft ground. Won his last race over 3m and the stable rate him highly. Will probably be ridden from the back in typical Paul Carberry fashion but that may not be ideal in this race.
What a mare! More than likely to stick to her tried and tested route of David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle followed by the Punchestown Festival. Is proven over 3m in a fast run race on better ground. If we knew she was definitely going to the World Hurdle I'd be of the opinion that she's one of two they have to beat and would be taking anything over [7.0].
Will stay this trip better than anything in the race and will appreciate the better ground at the Festival. Again, a lack of clarity as regards the horse's intended target means we cannot make a concrete decision. Won over hurdles over 3m at Wetherby at the start of the season and the way this race is likely to unfold will really suit him.
On a line through Zaidpour he has the beating of Monksland if you take into account how easily he won that day. Sound like a broken record, but does he need soft ground to be seen at his best? Probably. Will stay the trip well so won't fail for lack of stamina, but whether he has the pace in the closing stages on better ground would be the worry.
Beat Reve De Sivola under 2L in the Neptune a few years back and followed up in the novice race at Aintree. But, totally unproven at the trip and despite going well in a jumpers' bumper recently has yet to prove he's ready to rock back into Grade 1 company.
Who I'm Backing
Tricky little race to weigh up. The horses I fancy aren't guaranteed to run in the race, while the form runners may all need softer ground to be seen at their best. If we knew Quevega and Tidal Bay were to run I'd fancy their chances more than those at the head of the market, but backing them would be a double gamble. (Of the two Tidal Bay is the more likely to run and I'd be backing him big style if and when he's given the go-ahead.)
For that reason a position on one of the bigger priced runners would be the call, but that is proving hard to narrow down. A very tricky race indeed.
Monksland at [2.8] in the place looks short enough to lay given his love for soft ground and the fact Carberry may overplay the waiting tactics.
Lay Monksland to place @ [2.8]