Briar Hill worth considering as potential World Hurdle winner

Briar Hill worth considering as potential World Hurdle winner

If Briar Hill hadn’t fallen at the seventh flight shortly after the halfway stage of the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March, and had gone on, as the market anticipated, to land the prestigious three-mile contest, the chances are he would have been close to vying for favouritism in the ante-post market for the 2015 World Hurdle,

Punters waded into the Willie Mullins-trained gelding who for many was the Irish banker of the week, sending Ruby Walsh’s mount off a 2/1 favourite to continue his unbeaten record under rules. Everything appeared to be going to plan until the gelded son of Shantou misjudged the seventh of the 12 flights and came to grief. He was unhurt, but plenty of punters were left bruised and battered by the unanticipated exit of a horse many had already judged could become the latest big thing in the staying hurdles division.

As it was Very Wood took advantage of the absence of the favourite to record a four-and-a-half length victory over Deputy Dan, and Briar Hill was given the rest of the season off with connections taking the view that it was wise to give him time to recover from his spill and get him ready to return to the fray at the top of this game this term.

While there has been no public announcement confirming that Briar Hill will stay over hurdles this winter and wait at last another season before going novice chasing, many people believe he will stay over the smaller obstacles as the three-mile division doesn’t look the strongest at the moment. Of course, last year’s World Hurdle winner More of That, will be a serious contender to retain his crown, but a number of experts have wondered out loud whether last year’s championship race in which he beat the mare Annie Power and the frustrating At Fisher’s Cross, wasn’t one of the weaker renewals of the World Hurdle for some time.

Given that view, the door appears to be open for a new star to emerge in the division and that star could very well turn out to be the Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned Briar Hill. More of That is a solid 5/2 favourite, while Briar Hill is a 10/1 joint-second-favourite alongside Beat That in the current ante-post market for the big race scheduled for March 12.

Purchased for 100,000 guineas after winning his second start in point-to-points in impressive fashion, Briar Hill joined the Willie Mullins yard and from day one gave the impression he was a serious racehorse. He won a Thurles bumper on his debut under rules in January 2013, then two months later took his chance in the Grade 1 Weatherby’s Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival where he sprang a 25/1 surprise in slamming Regal Encore by seven lengths, storming clear up the hill to a tremendous victory. 

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