THE world really is your oyster, according to an age old saying…although with the day dedicated as St Patrick’s Day Thursday few of the 70,000 crammed inside Cheltenham will care or know quite what happens at Prestbury Park this afternoon.
It’s a day and a half with the feeling that racing sometimes takes second fiddle to the party – and yes, it is a party – around the old spa town.
What is guaranteed is the Irish will drink the bars dry of Guinness and give the oyster stands a fair old rattle – and they will hope the seafood will inspire them to a wallet-busting day of bookie bashing.
The feature is the Ladbrook’s World Hurdle and that is a race worthy of those still capable of witnessing the greatest show on turf.
The magnificent Big Buck’s is to hurdling what Mo Farrah is to a jog in the park, basically unbeatable when he feels like it. But this year there is a cloud over the great.
Defeat last time out, albeit after injury, was hard to take, especially for Sam Twiston-Davies who has replaced Ruby Walsh in the saddle for the ideal ride.
However trainer Paul Nicholls was happy with horse and handler and has that knowing look in his eye ahead of one of the most eagerly anticipated showdowns in years.
Nicholls, and there is no better student of the sport, will only say Big Buck’s has a ‘heck of a chance’ but the great champion must see off the new kid on the block, a new kid ridden by an old pal.
The big fella faces Willie Mullins’ Annie Power, ridden by Walsh, and the Irish raider will go off as favourite with thousands of Euros riding on the result.
Those two should be caught up in a battle and a half – but if they get too preoccupied there is an opening for champion jockey AP McCoy.
McCoy goes to post on At Fisher’s Cross and will be backed by the whole of Wales as the seven-year-old gelding looks for an upset.
Trainer Rebecca Curtis – who is in no way your archetypical National Hunt trainer – knows her horse and wouldn’t have put AP on top if there was no chance.
St Patrick’s Day Thursday may be set for the battle of the big two but this Welsh raider can really turn it into a day for the Welsh.