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2016 Cheltenham Festival: Thistlecrack is the World Hurdle banker and save on Vibrato in the Ryanair Chase

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Many people’s idea of the ‘Cheltenham Festival banker’ this year is the Colin Tizzard trained THISTLECRACK, who is a top price of around 6/5 – 11/10 to win the St-Patrick’s Day Raynair World Hurdle this season, having looked imperious in the build up to the big race.

The eight-year-old was a surprise 25/1 winner of the Grade 1 Doom Bar Grand Sefton Novices’ Hurdle last April but he has done nothing but improve since and in a division lacking much in the way of depth, the stage is all set for him to shine on the big stage.

One of the key questions posed to Thistlecrack was whether or not he could handle the unique Cheltenham racecourse, but Cheltenham Trials Day was the ideal platform for answering those and in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle last time out, Thistlecrack made some very good horses look very ordinary indeed. Not many horses can put twelve lengths between themselves and P’tit Zig but on testing ground, that’s exactly what he did, storming up the hill in the style of a truly top class staying hurdler.

In the Ryanair Chase on the same day the market has a blurry look to it until we know exactly what will run, but at double figure odds, we do know that Paul Nicholls is targeting VIBRATO VALTAT at the two mile five furlong Grade 1 chase and this strong travelling, classy grey could have what it takes to run a huge race. He has been plying his trade to very good effect over two miles to date, but the step up in trip is well worth a try and he is just the type to take well to the race.

It is abundantly clear that this seven-year-old lacks the gears to cut it against the very best over two miles, nevertheless he has some seriously smart form over the minimum trip. But Nicholls seems quietly bullish that his horse will stay the additional five furlongs and if he does, odds of 10/1 and bigger and the moment could look pretty generous. We have no idea if Vautour, Road To Riches or Valseur Lido will turn up here, so the only two that make any sense for an early bet are Al Ferof and Vibrato Valtat. It just so happens that the latter has the younger legs and is available at fair value odds.

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