World Hurdle contenders set to clash in cracking Cleeve
The World Hurdle market looks set for a shake-up this weekend with several leading contenders set to clash in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Festival Trials day (3.35pm, Saturday, January 24th).
Saphir Du Rheu is Coral’s 2/1 favourite for the 3m contest after trainer Paul Nicholls decided to switch the gedling back to the smaller obstacles.
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 has failed to complete in two of his three starts.
That has seen Nicholls and Stewart reverse their initial decision, and it is a tactic which they employed with the brilliant Big Buck’s who went on win the World Hurdle on four successive occasions between 2009 and 2012.
Given the open look to this year’s World Hurdle, Saphir Du Rheu would be a major player if coming through this test and is currently 7/1 second favourite with Coral to land the stayers’ crown at the Festival on Thursday, March 12th.
Beat That was a very smart novice last season and is Coral’s 9/2 second favourite for Saturday’s Grade 2 contest.
The Nicky Henderson trained gelding was very impressive when sauntering to four length success in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and followed-up in gutsy style in a Grade 1 contest at the Punchestown Festival.
The seven-year-old raced far too keenly on seasonal reappearance when a well beaten sixth behind Rock On Ruby over 2m 4f at the track, but travelled well for much of the contest and is sure to appreciate the step back up to 3m.
His is currently a 12/1 shot with Coral for the World Hurdle.
Another fascinating contender is the David Pipe trained Un Temps Pour Tout.
The six-year-old joined the Pond House handler for a huge sum after showing smart form in France, and had just three starts for new connection last season.
Un Temps Pour Tout looked the real deal in the second when slamming Cole Harden by 16 lengths at Ascot despite being heavily eased down, and rounded off the camapign with a solid third of 25 to Deep Trouble under top weight of 11st 10lb in a valuable handicap Hurdle at Punchestown last May.
Pipe expects the son of Robin Des Champs to improve for his first start of the season, but he is an exciting prospect who should have plenty more to offer and is currently 14/1 with Coral for the World Hurdle.