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World Hurdle betting hots up after Big Buck’s unbeaten run ends

Big Buck’s trainer Paul Nicholls declared himself ‘thrilled’ with the four-time World Hurdle hero after he was narrowly defeated in his first run for over a year at Cheltenham, but the result has brought the market for Cheltenham Thursday’s marquee event to life.

The Stewart family gelding remains a best-price 9/4 favourite with Coral, but the odds on his main rivals have come in considerably after a fascinating weekend’s action.

It’s still unclear which race Annie Power will go in at the festival, but the unbeaten mare is now vying for supremacy with Big Buck’s in this market at 3/1 after romping home by 15 lengths in a Grade 2 hurdle at Doncaster.

The six-year-old holds entries in the Champion Hurdle, for which she can be backed at 6/1, and the Mares Hurdle and owners the Ricci family said after her 10th win in as many races that connections won’t be rushed into a decision on their latest star’s Cheltenham assignment.

However, Annie Power has already seen off tough rivals, including Nicholls’ high-class seven-year-old Zarkandar (twice), over 2m4f-plus this season and powered on at Doncaster as if in need of a longer trip.

The markets indicate that she’s set for a World Hurdle tilt and the favourite also faces the prospect of a rematch with Rebecca Curtis’ stable-star At Fishers Cross, who put two poor runs at the end of 2013 behind him when splitting Big Buck’s and 66/1 winner Knockara Beau at Doncaster.

At Fishers Cross won three times around Cheltenham last season between December and the spring, including the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the festival, and Coral have forgiven the Oscar gelding’s troubles earlier in the campaign with a 6/1 quote for this race.

One prominent contender holding firm in the betting is Mouse Morris’ Rule The World, who hacked up in a 2m3f Grade 3 race around Naas in the mud in mid-January, ahead of Jennies Jewel and Dunguib.

Rule The World ran brilliantly behind The New One in the Neptune last year and showed up nicely in his first run back over 3m for 13 months at Leopardstown during the festive period, when finishing second to Mullins’ Zaidpour in a Grade 1.

The Gigginstown House Stud inmate is priced up at 8/1 for the World Hurdle, which trainer Morris indicated would be his next assignment before adding that the 3m trip would be no problem for Rule The World, as long as the ground is no better than good.