Monksland, Ireland’s leading candidate for the Grade 1 Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 14 is reported in fine fettle ahead of his attempt to land the race for the Emerald Isle for the first time since Michael Hourigan’s Doran’s Pride way back in 1995.
Currently a top-priced 6/1 third-favourite for the three-mile hurdling crown (behind 4/1 market leader Oscar, Whisky), the Noel Meade-trained gelding has taken on the mantle as the main Irish hope for the race.
The assumption is that the great mare, Quevega, will indeed bid to win the David Nicholson Hurdle for a remarkable fifth successive year, in preference to switching her considerable attentions to the World Hurdle in the absence of the race legend, Big Buck’s who misses the race through injury.
County Meath-based Meade confirmed that the son of Beneficial is in fine shape at present and has his fingers crossed that the trip across to Cheltenham goes without any hitches.
A smart performer at two-and-a-half miles last term, when he won the Grade 2 Slaney Novices Hurdle, before running a tremendous race to finish a fine third behind the high-class Simonsig in the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival, Monksland was runner-up to the smart Zaidpour at Fairyhouse in December over that trip.
He then stepped up to three miles for the first time in his career at Leopardstown last time out in late-December.
Travelling sweetly throughout at the rear of the field under Paul Carberry in the Grade 2 woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle, Meade’s star showed he relished the extra distance as he came through to gain his revenge on old rival Zaidpour.
He eventually ran out an impressive two-and-a-half length scorer and goes to the World Hurdle with a serious chance of lifting the crown.
Don’t forget to read Jamie Lynch’s Day One Preview on the Betfair website for all the latest picks for the Cheltenham Festival: http://betting.betfair.com/horse-racing/cheltenham/