By Simon Jackson
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained 15-2 shot More Of That caused an upset of sorts when landing the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, the feature race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The three mile stayers’ hurdle had been billed as a showdown between Annie Power, who went into the race unbeaten in 10 starts, and four time World Hurdle winner, Big Buck’s.
Yet the head-to-head failed to materialise as More Of That bided his time in midfield under Barry Geraghty before closing in on the leaders and taking it up approaching the last. Annie Power challenged on the run-in but the winner was too strong and fought bravely to prevail by a length and a half.
“We were very pleased with the horse and he was in great old form,” the delighted O’Neill said of the six-year-old who is now unbeaten in five starts. “He doesn’t show a lot at home – he is a real placid horse and he goes about his business and never does anything flash. I have never really worked him hard at home and he does his winning that way.
“Once he is healthy in himself, he shows us that he is a proper horse. I thought after Haydock, when he made that mistake and got back into the race in a decent handicap, that he would stay three miles but you never know until they run. I was quietly confident.
“Jumping the last, I thought he would keep galloping. I had a little doubt in my mind that Annie Power might not quite get home but she gave us a fair fright. It’s nice that there was no pressure on us today.
“Barry got him into a lovely rhythm and the horse jumped brilliantly today. He was pleased with the horse everywhere he went. Barry won this race for me 10 years ago with Iris’s Gift so it’s nice to team up again.
“I thought he would stay but you never know until you try. He’s got up that hill before and he’s bred to stay.
“After he won in December, the ground got very bad everywhere so we’d thought we’d miss the bad weather and wait for this as there’s only one Cheltenham.
“If I can keep him safe and sound then there are loads of options for him. He’s a lovely big horse who could go chasing.”
The victory continued a great festival for More Of That’s owner JP McManus, who earlier this week won the Stan James Champion Hurdle with Jezki.
“Long may it last,” McManus said. It’s nice to have horses that are good enough to run in these big races.”
In other news, Paul Nicholls announced immediately after the race that fifth placed Big Buck’s had been retired.
“This horse has been a legend and we don’t want him to get hurt or something like that so we are going to end on a good note,” Nicholls said. “We are mightily proud of him. He has run a good race today but just has not had the legs of old. We are not going to ask him to do any more. He will have an honourable retirement.
“He is an amazing horse to have been involved in.”
Read Horse Talk with Simon Jackson each day at London24 for the latest horse racing news.