Bliss bids for World domination

FRANCOIS Doumen admits he would not swap Kasbah Bliss for any other horse as the French handler goes in search of his third success in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham today.

Doumen saddled the mighty Baracouda to win the stayers’ crown in 2002 and 2003 and Kasbah Bliss came close to adding to the tally when chasing home the now-retired Inglis Drever 12 months ago.

Kasbah Bliss propelled himself to the head of the ante-post market for this year’s renewal when displaying an awesome turn of foot at Haydock last time and Doumen believes there is even more to come.

“Kasbah arrived at Cheltenham on Monday with my two other runners and he is absolutely superb, doing a little canter every day,” said Doumen.

“He’s getting older and stronger now and his run at Haydock was his first since the Arc weekend at Longchamp, so obviously there is a margin for improvement after a comeback race like that.

“He proved at Haydock that he is now coping better with softer ground than he was when he was a younger horse.

“If it dries more I’ll be more than happy but if there is an exceptionally big shower, I wouldn’t worry too much.

“The other trainers have done a beautiful job and I respect their horses, but the only thing I can say is I wouldn’t swap my horse for any other in the race.”

The Nicky Henderson-trained Punchestowns would appear to be one of the French raider’s main dangers, but Henderson himself admits Kasbah Bliss is giving him plenty of sleepless nights.

“Everything was going quite swimmingly at Christmas time until two things happened,” said the Seven Barrows maestro.

“I wasn’t as worried about when we met Big Buck’s at Cheltenham in January, as in fairness he is a big and quite stuffy horse. He had a bit of a break and needed a race.

“We got beaten by Big Buck’s but we have got 8lb to come, which will close the gap and I think we have a bit of a chance of reversing that form.

“That was all well until I sent Duc de Regniere up to Haydock for the Rendlesham.

“AP (McCoy) rang and said he was pleased with our horse but that he had some bad news for me.

“He said there was no horse in the world that was going to beat Kasbah Bliss. I fear we are all up against it.”

Andy Stewart, owner of Big Buck’s, echoed Henderson’s sentiments and he too cannot see how his smart stayer can get the better of Kasbah Bliss.

“I was very impressed with Kasbah Bliss at Haydock, but he beat Hills of Aran and didn’t have a proper race,” said Stewart.

“Big Buck’s is a chaser and if he hadn’t unseated his rider and then come first, second or third in the Hennessy, he wouldn’t even be in this race.

“He’s not a hurdler but is entitled to be here. I think it is between the three of them but I think the French horse will win this easily.”

Powerstation’s form is some way short of the leading protagonists but his jockey Andrew McNamara hopes he can run beyond himself on his return to Prestbury Park.

The nine-year-old has finished second on each of his four visits to the track and McNamara admits a place is probably the best he can hope for again.

“His form in small fields in Ireland isn’t good enough but he always seems to up his game when running here,” said the jockey.

“If he can do so again then I think he could be placed, but Kasbah Bliss will be hard to beat and looked very good on the Flat in France last year.”

Mighty Man was beaten less than a length by Inglis Drever in this event two years ago but as he is returning from a lengthy injury absence, his trainer Henry Daly is just hoping to keep his charge in one piece.

“Getting there is half the game and we are not there yet, but we are getting closer,” said Daly.

“There is nowhere else to go with him and that is just a fact of life. Hopefully he’ll go to Aintree after this but the main thing is he comes out of the race fine.”

Philip Hobbs hopes the drying ground will aid Fair Along’s cause as he goes in search of his fifth course win.

“He has an each-way chance and the better ground will hopefully help him,” said Hobbs.

“Obviously Kasbah Bliss will take a lot of beating but hopefully our horse will run well.

“He does run well round Cheltenham but he actually does most of his racing there so we will see.”

Keith Reveley reports Tazbar to be in the form of his life ahead of the Grade One contest but believes minor prize-money may be the best he can hope for.

“He is in really great form and his preparation for the race has been spot-on,” said Reveley.

“We’ve got a stone to find and you wouldn’t really expect to do it but if you aren’t in, you can’t win so we’ll have a go.

“It will be good experience for both horse and rider and if he isn’t good enough, there will be no harm done. We have nothing to lose at all.

“His Haydock run was probably a career best so we are just praying that it stays dry and if he can pick up some prize-money, that will be grand.”

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