The World Hurdle is the staying hurdles championship of national hunt racing. Run over three miles the race features twelve hurdles and is run over the Cheltneham New Course as the Cheltenham Festival's day three feature race.
The race has a tendency to produce multiple winners. Most recently Big Buck's set a race record by taking four consecutive World Hurdle victories, and since 2000 four horses have taken two or more victories in the race, accounting for around two thirds of all titles won during this period.
World Hurdle trends
An easy, if not helpful, trend to identify in the World Hurdle is the unusually high failure rate of antepost favourites. Since Big Buck's ended his remarkable winning run in the World Hurdle the antepost favourite hasn't won the race once.
A win in a Grade 1 or 2 race ahead of the World Hurdle is a useful cue for picking out candidates, with four of the last five winners taking their price prior to their trip to Cheltenham. It is not, however, a pre-requisite. Cole Harding took the title in 2015 after a 4th place finish in his previous race.
Even the official ratings won't give you much help picking the winner - the last five champions have ranged in the wide margin between ratings of 154 and 174.
If anything you need to assess each horse against the field when making your World Hurdle pick. Besides the unsurprising fact that good form is a useful indicator of a potential champion, the only thing World Hurdle winners tend to share in common is that they've won the World Hurdle.
2016 World Hurdle field
With those unhelpful trend insights out the way, we can take a look at the 2016 World Hurdle field. And it's a tough field to parse, with top three favourites all making a mockery of the only form trend we have to work with by entering the race on the back of strong runs of form.
Antepost favourite, Thistlecrack, has a Big Buck's-ish look about him, travelling to Cheltenham on the back of a series of prestigious long distance hurdle wins that includes the Long Walk Hurdle, the Long Distance Hurdle and most recently the Cleeve Hurdle.
He also won the Sefton Novices Hurdle at Aintree last season. Throw in an official rating of 68 and Thistlecrack should be a shoe-in for the 2016 World Hurdle title. However, you can't afford to ignore the World Hurdle's tendency to dethrone antepost favourites - particularly when they are priced around the Evens mark.
Alpha Des Obeaux has been in decent form this season, taking second place in the Grade 1 Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle and Grade 1 Grace Hurdle before winning a Grade 2 hurdle over 3 miles at Gowran, where he beat the classy At Fishers Cross by 11 lengths. His steady improvement makes him good each-way value at odds of 8/1 at Coral.
If there's a big upset in the World Hurdle, expect it to come from Aux Ptits Sons. This French raider has a competitive urge that has seen him win all four of his career races by short margins. In his first race at Cheltenham he won over 21 furlongs against a field of 25, taking that race by a neck. If he's fired up he'll make his backers very happy at his price of 18/1.