Stage set for Grand Crus to expose poor World Hurdle form
Last month’s World Hurdle at Cheltenham saw the other contemporary staying hurdlers vying for the chance to try on the unparalleled Big Buck’s’ 3m crown and the Aintree hurdle will give the other pretenders another opportunity for Grade 1 success in the great beast’s continued absence through injury. World Hurdle winner Solwhit currently holds favouritism from Grand Crus and Cheltenham nearly man Celestial Halo.
Several runners including African Gold, Holywell and Medinas chance their arm in with the big boys after notable performances in novice events and handicaps at the March festival.
However history dictates it may be wise to focus attentions on the relative merits of the bets-backed trio. The betting has been a faithful guide for punters in the nine years of the race’s existence, with every winner to be found among the three shortest priced runners.
Those nine winners’ had all finished in the first two in a race at this Aintree meeting before talking this race, which augurs particularly well for Solwhit who took the Grade 1 2m4f Aintree Hurdle back in 2009.
Conversely Celestial Halo – his neighbour in the betting – can count his best April Aintree performance as an 11th of 18 behind Solwhit in that 2009 contest, falling and finishing last in two subsequent runs in that race.
Grand Crus, returning from a hiatus that ensured he missed Cheltenham, has a second to the great elephant in the room Big Buck’s over this course and distance two years ago in the form book and the air of an unknown quantity.
Back in his salad days he was rated 169 over timber and considering Solwhit is rated just 164 after his World Hurdle win a return to the smaller obstacles could prove just the tonic for David Pipe’s grey.
This year’s World Hurdle lacked the real end-to-end gallop of the event in which Grand Crus took his silver medal and the field were strung out by the time Solwhit fought off Celestial Halo over the last. Grand Crus’ World Hurdle was a far more competitive race, with five horses in with a shout at the last and none of the quintet slowing down.
Suspicions remain that Solwhit could be undone by more searching fractions at Aintree. With genuine stayers such as African Gold and the Holywell likely to ensure a good pace in Liverpool the stage could be set for Grand Crus to strike.