Will Annie have too much Power for legendary stayer Big Buck’s?

Big Buck's
Big Buck's

Since the Cheltenham Festival was extended to a four-day meeting in 2005, Thursday has been seen as the weakest day.

However, the championship race on Thursday afternoon is shaping up to be an epic.

The World Hurdle could be one of the races of the week.

Four-times champion Big Buck’s is back trying to regain his crown after missing last year’s festival due to injury, and the Paul Nicholls-trained 11-year-old comes up against potential Irish superstar Annie Power.

The Willie Mullins six-year-old could have run at any number of races at the festival, including the Champion Hurdle or the Mares’ Hurdle, and probably would have started favourite.

A winner of all 10 races she receives a 7lb mares allowance from her rivals.

Annie Power won at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when accounting for Zarkander by eight lengths.

Ruby Walsh partnered Big Buck’s to all four World Hurdles but since parting company with Nicholls he takes the ride on Annie Power which the only doubt being the mare has never gone three miles. But with the stable firing on all cylinders, and with the Irish banker Faugheen winning yesterday for the same stable, it’s likely to go off a short price.

Big Buck’s is simply the best staying hurdler of all time, after unseating Sam Thomas in the Hennessy Gold Cup the decision was taken to switch from fences to hurdles with the French bred gelding winning 18 consecutive races including four World Hurdles, four Liverpool Hurdles at Aintree and four Long Distance Hurdles.

After winning his fourth Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury Big Buck’s suffered a serious leg injury which kept him off the track until January 2014 when he finished third at Cheltenham to 66/1 Knockara Beau. There won’t be a dry eye in the house if he wins but at 11, and after such a long layoff, it will be a tall order.

The Grade One JLT Novice Chase kicks off the action and it is ultra competitive with Felix Younger, Oscar Whisky, Wonderful Charm and Taquin Du Seuil all clashing.

Benefficient won at the festival last year and could represent a bit of value in the Grade One Ryanair Chase.