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Cheltenham Festival 2015: World Hurdle preview (15:20)

This year’s renewal of the World Hurdle (15:20) is a wide open affair and the progressive Lieutenant Colonel looks decent value to land the spoils for Ireland.

Trained by Sandra Hughes, this gelding was a smart novice hurdler last season, finishing a 5 1/2 length runner-up to Vautour on hurdling debut before running a highly creditable sixth of 15 to Faugheen in the Neptune at this meeting.

Lieutenant Colonel went on to land a Grade 2 contest at Fairyhouse in good style and, after finishing runner-up over fences on his first start this season, has gone on to land back-to-back Grade 1 hurdle contests at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.

The six-year-old beat Jetson on both occasions, and showed a good attitude on the last of those when scoring by 3/4 of a length on his first try at 3m.

That win suggested that Lieutenant Colonel could have even more to offer and, with the ground ideal and Bryan Cooper in the saddle, the Gigginstown House Stud owned son of Kayf Tara looks to have plenty going for him here.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has two strong contenders for this big race on day three of the Festival, in the shape of Saphir De Rheu and Zarkanadar, and the former has the better chance in my book.

Owned by Andy Stewart, the six-year-old 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 to win this race on four successive occasions between 2009 and 2012, and Saphir Du Rheu signalled that he was a big player for this when beating Reve De Sivola in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at this track last time out.

For those looking for an outsider, Jetson fits the bill.

The 10-year-old brought to an end Quevega’s nine-race unbeaten streak when denying the great mare by 1/14 lengths in World Series Hurdle at Punchestown last May, and has run well to finish third and fifth in the last two runnings of the Pertemps Final at this meeting.

Trained by Jessica Harrington, this gelding has also performed well to finish runner-up on his last two runs behind Lieutenant Colonel, and won’t have to find much on those efforts to play a part.