International Hurdle Preview: Old Guard favourites in below par race

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Old Guard – 10-1 William Hill

Cheltenham’s Grade 2 Unibet International Hurdle, known as the Bula Hurdle until Stan James became the race’s sponsor in 2010, has proved a significant trial for the Champion Hurdle over the years with Rooster Booster in 2002 the last to win both races in the same season. The 2017 renewal however is unlikely to repeat that feat with all but one of the seven entries for Saturday’s 2m 1f contest shorter than 66-1 for next March’s hurdling crown, the exception being the Willie Mullins-trained Melon.

Whether last season’s Supreme Novices Hurdle runner-up ( a top price 14-1 with Stan James and Betvictor for the Champion Hurdle ) is allowed to take his chance at the weekend is anyone’s guess as the master of Closutton is impossible to second-guess at times as was the case with Douvan and Un De Sceaux in last week’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown. Should the five-year-old line up his chance is crystal clear but at a best price 7-2 it would be wiser to wait until the final declarations are made, albeit at a shorter price.

One horse who is on track to win the race for a record fourth time following victories in 2013/14/16 is the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained The New One who faced a mammoth task on his most recent start when trying to concede lumps of weight to some talented rivals in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.

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A fourth-place finish there was more than respectable for the nine-year-old and while Saturday’s revised weights suggest The New One should reverse the form with the third horse home there – Old Guard – Paul Nicholls consistent six-year-old looks the value of the race at the 10-1 available with Paddy Power and the sponsor.

Since that excellent effort Old Guard has gone on to defy top weight in a competitive handicap at Newbury and after a disappointing 2016/17 season the son of Notnowcato looks back to something like the kind of form which saw him win this race in 2015 when beating the Willie Mullins contender Sempre Medici.

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Of the other potential runners the evergreen My Tent Or Yours is likely to need his first run for eight months while John Constable and Ch’Tibello need to improve to make a mark at this level.

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