Fantastic Hurdling Showpieces In Prospect
The two most prestigious hurdling events of the season, the Smurfit Champion Hurdle and Ladbrokes World Hurdle, are both shaping up to be tremendous events with 35 entries revealed today for each race.
No less than a dozen of the Smurfit Champion Hurdle entries are trained in Ireland including the first six in the ante-post betting, Harchibald, Back In Front, Accordion Etoile, last year’s winner Hardy Eustace, Macs Joy and the 2004 Letheby & Christopher Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victor Brave Inca.
A very strong Irish team for the contest, run on The Festival’s opening day, Tuesday, March 15 and worth £300,000, is further bolstered by recent Pierse Hurdle winner Essex and the great mare Solerina.
The 2003 winner Rooster Booster is also engaged in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle while Martin Pipe’s five entries include 2003 runner-up Westender and the fast-improving duo Marcel and Tamarinbleu.
Trainer Howard Johnson is represented by Inglis Drever while Gerard Butler’s smart Flat performer Compton Bolter, who has never run over hurdles, has been given an entry.
Kent-based owner Fergus Wilson has covered his options with Astonville, Present Bleu, Solarius and Turnium, who were all also entered in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
With last year’s winner Iris’s Gift, who is set to go chasing, not engaged in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, the 2004 runner-up Baracouda is currently 7/4 favourite with the sponsors to land a third success in the race, formerly known as the Stayers’ Hurdle.
The French-trained 10-year-old’s main rivals look to include the Alan King-trained Crystal D’Ainay, last season’s Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner Rule Supreme as well as Howard Johnson’s duo Inglis Drever and Royal Rosa.
The novices Gold Medallist and Pole Star, both impressive winners on their latest starts, are engaged while the only entry yet to run over hurdles is the ex-Flat stayer Romany Prince, bought out of David Elsworth’s stable for 60,000 guineas in October to join Steve Gollings.
This year’s rebranded event has had its prize money significantly increased to £200,000 and is set to be the highlight of The Festival’s third day, Thursday, March 17.
Both the Smurfit Champion Hurdle and Ladbrokes World Hurdle are among the 63 races in the £300,000 BHB Order Of Merit.
Edward Gillespie, Cheltenham’s Managing Director, commented: "The Festival’s famous Anglo-Irish rivalry is set to come to the fore in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, in which entries from Ireland look particularly strong this year.
"The Ladbrokes World Hurdle promises to be a real highlight on the third day of The Festival as France’s Baracouda bids for a third success in the race facing stiff opposition from British and Irish rivals."
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