The Ladbrokes World Hurdle, formerly known as the Stayers’ Hurdle, has been dominated in recent years by the awesome Paul Nicholls charge Big Buck’s. The only horse to land this race three times in succession and going for a record breaking fourth World Hurdle in 2012, Big Buck’s is currently on an unbeaten run of fifteen races. Surely you’d have to be mad to bet against the favourite, who is as short as 1.40 in the betting…?

The vast majority of World Hurdle winners have been aged between six and eight, with just five horses aged nine or older winning the race in the last 40 years, and no winners aged five or younger. Big Buck’s returns to the Cheltenham Festival in his bid to make history aged nine, which could possibly be seen as a negative based on this trend.

However, of the last three nine year old (or older) winners, all three were previous winners, and both of the last two were successfully defending their Cheltenham crown. The Ladbrokes World Hurdle has thrown up plenty of repeat winners in the recent past, with Inglis Drever winning three times (2005, 2007 and 2008), Baracouda twice (2002 and 2003) and of course, Big Buck’s (2009, 2010 and 2011), so it’s entirely possible that the Paul Nicholls superstar will make it four in a row.

Past Cheltenham Festival form is vital in a potential World Hurdle winner, with sixteen of the last eighteen winners having run at the previous years’ Festival, and seven of the last ten having previously finished either first or second in a Festival race.

All ten of the last ten World Hurdle winning horses had run in between one and four races that season, and all ten had finished in the front two on every single start, so we definitely need to be looking at horses in form, and preferably ones who haven’t had a tough season up to the Festival.

As the World Hurdle is the premier event for stayers, form over the trip is very important. Most World Hurdle winners come into the race having already been victorious over 3m, and although Inglis Drever won his first World Hurdle having never won further than 2m 5f, he had never actually tried the trip until the race itself. We should probably look to swerve any horses who have tried the 3m trip and failed.

Big Buck’s is definitely the horse to be on for the 2012 World Hurdle, ticking all the boxes in terms of trends and with three wins in the race already under his belt. However, this is reflected in his skinny price, which is no bigger than 1.57 (SportingBet).

For me, there are two ways to play this year’s World Hurdle market. First of all, is to try and find some value in the “Without Big Buck’s” betting, while the second is to take advantage of one thing that everyone knows about Big Buck’s; his one real “weakness”.

Anyone who follows horse racing, and particularly the Cheltenham Festival, will know all about the fact that Big Buck’s always has a spell during the race where he appears to struggle. This “flat spot” has become something of a trademark and it’s possible to take advantage of it by betting in running.

By laying Big Buck’s on Betfair at his current price of 1.65, we should be able to back him at a greater price in running when he hits his flat spot, thus guaranteeing a profit regardless of whether he goes on to win or not.

But if the exchanges aren’t your style, then “Without Big Buck’s” is definitely the way to go in terms of World Hurdle betting. But what to pick?

Oscar Whisky is highly regarded, but a trend that really puts me off the beast is that no horse having raced in a Cheltenham Champion Hurdle has gone on to success in the World Hurdle since 1992. At just 6.00 in the betting and 2.75 (both Bet365) without Big Buck’s, I’m sure we can find a better priced alternative.

When I first saw Mikael D’Haguenet at a best price of 8.00 without Big Buck’s (William Hill), I was initially very keen. The horse has Cheltenham Festival form, having won a Novices’ Hurdle at the 2009 Festival and ticks a lot of the boxes. However, his two attempts at 3m or further resulted in a fall (admittedly when chasing at last year’s Festival, the reason he’s been switched back to hurdles) and a disappointing eighth (of ten runners) place finish.

Perhaps a better alternative would be Voler La Vedette, who is arguably the best of the Irish challengers just now. The Mare has recently beaten last year’s World Hurdle third Mourad not once but twice, including once at 3m and although she has only run once at Cheltenham, she finished third in the Mares’ Hurdle at the 2010 Festival. Finding a horse to tick every single box – other than Big Buck’s of course – is tough, so I’m prepared to forgive her non-appearance at the Festival last year.

At a best price of 8.00 (BetVictor) without Big Buck’s, she looks a great Each-Way bet.


The Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Betting without Big Buck’s)
Thursday 15th March 2012, 15:20

Voler La Vedette (Each-Way) @ 8.00 (BetVictor)