2016 Cheltenham Festival: World Hurdle and Mares’ Hurdle entries revealed
David Metcalf | January 21, 2016
Entries for the World Hurdle and Mares’ Hurdle races at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival have been announced.
Walford has sights set on World Hurdle glory
The World Hurdle, the championship race staged over 3m on Thursday, March 17th, has attracted 48 hopefuls, including five of the first six horses home in the 2015 running; winner Cole Harden (7/1 with Coral for a repeat success), runner-up Saphir Du Rheu (16/1), fourth At Fishers Cross (33/1), fifth Whisper (25/1) and sixth Un Temps Pour Tout (25/1).
The 2014 hero More Of That (25/1) has also been given an entry, although both of his starts this season have come in novices’ chases and the RSA Chase is thus his most likely objective.
Heading Coral’s ante-post betting on 9/4 is Thistlecrack, who has registered two impressive victories this season.
The Colin Tizzard trained gelding got the better of Deputy Dan and Cole Harden in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, before moving on to Ascot where he was the eight-length winner of the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle.
Camping Ground a real find
Another horse to have made an impact in Graded company this season is the Robert Walford trained Camping Ground (8/1 with Coral), who was the impressive 11-length winner of the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle over an extended 2m 4f at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
The ex-French six-year-old won five times in his native country – a chase, three hurdles and a flat race – and his only previous British victory from three starts came under top-weight in a Warwick handicap chase.
Camping Ground’s Dorset-based handler Walford, who has yet to saddle a winner at The Festival but partnered the 2000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase victor Honey Mount, said: “Camping Ground has been very good since his win on New Year’s Day and is in great form.
“All being well, he will now go for galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of the month (January 30) and then head on to The Festival.
“Leighton Aspell rang me after he won the Relkeel and said we should also enter him in the Champion Hurdle – he knows pretty well what he is on about so we did. If it came up heavy, he could maybe go for the Champion Hurdle but in my mind he is really a stayer.
“Camping Ground hasn’t actually won over three miles yet but was going away on heavy ground when he won the Relkeel, so I don’t see the step up in trip being a problem. I would be surprised if he didn’t stay three miles. Better ground should not be a problem as he has won on good ground on the Flat.”
How many of large Irish contingent will feature?
A record Irish-trained entry list of 18 includes Annie Power (10/1), runner-up to More Of That in 2014 and a faller at the final flight when looking assured of victory in the 2015 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.
Her trainer Willie Mullins, who has yet to win the World Hurdle, is also responsible for five more entries. They include another mare, Vroum Vroum Mag (9/1), plus Briar Hill, Champion Hurdle hope Nichols Canyon, Renneti and Simenon.
Also among the Irish-trained entries are Prince Of Scars (16/1) and Alpha Des Obeaux (14/1), first and second respectively in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, plus Martello Tower (16/1), third in the same race and winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2015.
Other eye-catching entries include the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth (33/1) and dual King George VI Chase hero Silviniaco Conti (20/1).
Annie Power heads Mares’ Hurdle entries
There are 45 entries for the Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, run over 2m 4f on Tuesday, March 15th, headed by Coral’s current 4/6 favourite Annie Power.
The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old has been successful on 12 of her 14 starts. Her only reversals have come at The Festival, when second in the 2014 World Hurdle and falling at the last in last year’s renewal of the Mares’ Hurdle when having the race at her mercy.
Her trainer Willie Mullins has six entries in total, including Morning Run (16/1), successful on six of her seven starts, Grade 1 scorer Petite Parisienne (20/1) and Vroum Vroum Mag (7/1) who is better known as a chaser.
There are 16 Irish-trained entries in total and other leading hopes include Ballychorus (20/1), who could revert to hurdles following two falls when bang in contention in competitive handicap chases.
Arthey hoping to tune Jennys Melody
Northern Ireland handler Ben Arthey has yet to saddle a runner at Cheltenham, but is looking forward to getting Jennys Melody (33/1) back to the track.
The seven-year-old mare looked a progressive performer last season, scoring impressively in novice company at Sedgefield and Newcastle, before rounding off her campaign by defeating seasoned opposition in a mares’ handicap hurdle at Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting in April.
Arthey, who is based in Co Antrim, said: “Jennys Melody had a bit of a setback after she won at Ayr so that is why she has not run yet this season. It wasn’t career-threatening but it kept reoccurring and held us up. We are getting her going again now.
“She improved with every run last year, both physically and mentally. She has to improve a hell of lot again to take on the likes of Annie Power but if you are not in, you can’t win and we thought she was worth an entry. She is physically much stronger than she was at this time last year.
“I think she probably is better on good ground, but has won on heavy ground too. We could look at taking her over for a Listed race at Warwick for her comeback run and see where we go from there.
“She won a bumper at Sedgefield on the Tuesday of Cheltenham two years ago and a novices’ hurdle on the same Tuesday last year – it would be great if she won on the same Tuesday again this year!”
Other leading hopes include Aurore D’Estruval (6/1 second favourite with Coral), who shaped with promise on her return to action when fourth to Camping Ground in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle and last year’s runner-up, Polly Peachum (12/1), who looked as good as ever when winning a Listed contest at Sandown when last seen in action.