It is arguably one of the most mouth-watering clashes of the whole Cheltenham Festival, as super-mare Annie Power takes on the four-time World Hurdle Champ Big Buck’s. Many thought that Big Bucks was unstoppable, as he racked up 18 wins on the spin to confirm his status as the sport’s greatest staying hurdler. Unfortunately a serious injury took Paul Nicholls’ star off the track for 14 months, before he battled on for third in the Cleeve Hurdle on his reappearance in January.
Throwing it down to the multiple Champ is Willie Mullins’ Annie Power. She’ll get a 7lb allowance off Big Buck’s and in an Eastenders-like twist, Ruby Walsh takes the ride. Walsh knows Big Bucks better than most having ridden him many of times over the years including in all four of his World Hurdle victories.
Ruby Walsh will clearly have a lot of respect for Big Bucks, but he’s confident Annie Power won’t shy away from the champ if they go at it alongside each other up Cleeve Hill.
Barry Geraghty struck gold in the first Championship race of the Festival on outsider Jezki in the Champion Hurdle, and is confident there will be another surprise on Thursday. Jonjo O’Neill’s More of That has had just four runs, winning them all and a few wiser men than me believe there is plenty of improvement to come.
Top jockey Geraghty certainly does, and after winning a Grade 2 at Cheltenham in December, Barry is confident More of That can spring a surprise in the World Hurdle.
The lovable rogue that is John Parrott cleaned up on Faugheen in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday so no doubt he celebrated with some sensible shandies last night. The former snooker world champ has his eyes set on the Ryanair Chase and 4/1 shot Al Ferof.
JP isn’t convinced about the favourite Dynaste and thinks he prefers running during the winter. Dynaste that is, not John Parrott.
So there you go for Thursday at Cheltenham. Ruby Walsh confirms both Big Bucks and Annie Power are horses, and not mice. Barry Geraghty is looking to surprise everyone again on a horse that is being tipped up in a significant number of places so might not be a surprise at all. And John Parrott, fresh from going #Cheltmental on Wednesday, is sweet on Al Ferof.