by Jack Milner, of BetVictor. THE Ladbroke World Hurdle offers a different question this year through the absence of the all-conquering Big Buck’s, who has won the last four renewals. The previous question revolved around: “How do we get Big Buck’s beaten?” Instead it’s “Who is good enough to win?” He really did set the bar exceptionally high. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone as they say. Monksland would have been of interest before being ruled out; he looked certain to stay, unlike Oscar Whisky and Solwhit, both of whom are two-and-a-half mile specialists and are unlikely to see out the three-mile trip.
A horse laden with stamina and who loves a battle up the hill is REVE DE SIVOLA, who has rediscovered his form of old since going back to hurdles after an unsuccessful stint chasing. He won the two commonly associated prep races, the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and Long Walk Hurdle, in different styles but both equally impressive. Dickie Johnson gets a good tune out of him and he looks the one to beat.
The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup looks equally wide open as the dominating pair of Kauto Star and Denman are no longer around to dismantle their respective fields. 2011 winner Long Run looks to be vulnerable against three second-season chasers, Silviniaco Conti, Sir Des Champs and Bobs Worth. It looks a flat-out duel between the latter pair, and I am just siding with SIR DES CHAMPS, although I have changed my mind three times while writing this! Willie Mullins has absolutely laid him out for this race, bringing him along steadily. He loves Cheltenham, winning the Martin Pipe in 2011 and the Jewson Novices’ Chase last year, and he will look to give Willie Mullins and Davy Russell their first Gold Cup and seal the hat-trick of wins at the Festival.