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World Hurdle betting shake-up after defending champ suffers setback

The betting for the World Hurdle has been given a shake-up after trainer Jonjo O’Neill revealed that More Of That was unlikely to defend his crown after breaking a blood vessel following a piece of work.

More Of That ended the unbeaten run of top Irish mare Annie Power when scoring by 1 1/2 lengths in last year’s renewal of the 3m contest, but lost his own unbeaten record when finishing a distant third in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November when sent off the 4/7 favourite.

The seven-year-old was clearly not right, and was subsequently found to have breathing problems and underwent a wind operation.

Hopes had been high that would get the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old back on track to defend his stayers’ crown on Thursday, March 12th.

However, after pleasing connections in a piece of work yesterday morning in the hands of 19-time champion jockey AP McCoy, the son of Beneficial was found to have bled on return to the yard.

It has left O’Neill and his team facing a race against time ahead of the Festival, and the Jackdaws Castle handler has warned that More Of That is now an unlikely runner.

That has resulted in support for Saphir Du Rheu, who is now 9/2 (from 6s) with Coral, and challenging More Of That (4/1) for favouritism.

Owned by Andy Stewart, Saphir Du Rheu showed ultra progressive form over hurdles last season when winning three of his six starts – including the Lanzarote and Welsh Champion Hurdle.

The plan had been to campaign Saphir over fences this season, but the six-year-old failed to complete in two of his three starts and that saw connections switch him back to hurdles.

It was a tactic which Stewart and trainer Paul Nicholls employed with the brilliant Big Buck’s, who went on win the World Hurdle on four successive occasions between 2009 and 2012, and Saphir Du Rheu signalled that he was a major player for this year’s renewal when beating Reve De Sivola in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham last time out.

Another to have attracted support since the shocks news of More Of That’s setback is Cheltenham specialist Rock On Ruby who is now 7/1 (from 8s).

Trained by Harry Fry, the gelding is a four-time winner at Prestbury Park, including in the 2012 Champion Hurdle, and has looked as good as ever this season despite being 10-years-old.

The son of Oscar jumps well and has a high cruising speed, and won in good style when beating Vaniteux over an extended 2m 4f at Cheltenham when last seen in action.