SOMERSBY can provide one of the most compelling headlines of this year’s Cheltenham Festival by winning the Ryanair Chase.
The much-admired Henrietta Knight has not visited the sacred winner’s enclosure since 2004, when Best Mate secured a magnificent third triumph in the Gold Cup.
Yet 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 this Grade One affair.
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 given 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.
Somersby also has important course form, with his narrow second to Sizing Europe in the Arkle now looking impenetrable.
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.
Hyperbole was exhausted long ago when assessing the merits of Paul Nicholls’s now-legendary staying hurdler, who will be bidding for a 16th consecutive win – and an historic fourth World Hurdle crown.