Horse Racing: Somersby all set to shine

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Somersby can supply Henrietta Knight with her first Cheltenham Festival victory since the great Best Mate.

The much-admired handler has not visited the sacred winner’s enclosure since 2004, when Best Mate secured a magnificent third triumph in the Gold Cup.

That long losing streak can finally be stricken from the record courtesy of the deeply talented, and often misunderstood, Somersby, who runs the gauntlet in the Ryanair Chase.

Knight’s eight-year-old gelding has not been without his critics during a career which has often flickered, without really ever igniting.

Just four victories over fences adds some credence to that theory, yet few could hardly call him a rogue give he has only once finished outside the first four in 14 chase starts.

This season had charted a similarly consistent – if slightly frustrating – route, with solid placed efforts behind Master Minded at Ascot and Gauvain in the Peterborough Chase.

He then looked a little one-paced stepping up to three miles in the King George, after which Knight decided to take a considerable drop in trip with him for the Victor Chandler Chase.

Despite some concerns that Ascot’s two miles and a furlong might have been on the sharp side, everything went swimmingly for Somersby, who brushed aside Finian’s Rainbow by a length and a quarter.

What was again striking about that victory was the fluidity in which he was staying on towards the line.

This trait has defined his career, and would suggest the Ryanair’s two-mile-five-furlong trip should be utterly ideal.

Big Buck’s will not be much of a price for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle yet his odds-on profile is unlikely to put off many from cheering him home.

Paul Nicholls’ now-legendary staying hurdler will be bidding for a 16th consecutive win – and an historic fourth World Hurdle crown.

And, while Oscar Whisky and, possibly, So Young are worthy foes, they are certainly not of the calibre of last year’s runner-up Grands Crus.

Peddlers Cross’ confirmation has transformed the market for the Jewson Novices’ Chase, in which he is now a worthy favourite.

Yet despite clearly holding some of the best form from his hurdling years, Sir Des Champs is a solid alternative at a far bigger price.

Willie Mullins’ six-year-old has progressed well enough since being sent chasing and is already a winner at the Festival, having pocketed the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap 12 months ago.