The World Hurdle will headline Day 3 - St. Patrick's Thursday - of the Cheltenham Festival 2014, but the first two days of the jump racing spectacle have been overshadowed by two more horses dying on the course, after Our Conor's death on the opening day.
Akdam and Stack the Deck were put down after suffering injuries on Ladies Day Wednesday at the Cheltenham Festival. Jockey Bryan Cooper also suffered a broken leg while riding Clarcam in the Handicap Hurdle, with Akdam fracturing a foreleg in the same incident, which eventually led to his sad demise.
Stack the Deck pulled up lame in the Champion Bumper - the last race of the day.
The British Horseracing Authority defended the list of fatalities at this year's event, with the list growing to 11 over the past five years. "Everyone in the sport of racing regrets the loss of a horse, especially those who are close to the horses in question," BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said. "The welfare of horses and riders is of paramount importance.
"Despite the best efforts of all involved, as with participation in any sport involving speed and athleticism, there remains an inherent risk of injury.
"British racing is open and transparent about the risks involved to both horse and rider. Over the last 15 years, the equine fatality rate in British racing has fallen by one-third, from 0.3 percent to 0.2 percent of runners."
Race organisers and enthusiasts will hope for a calamity-free Thursday, with Big Buck's and Annie Power set to go head-to-head on what promises to be a humdinger of a World Hurdle Race.
Big Buck's, trained by Paul Nicholls, who will also have Zarkandar, Celestial Halo and Salubrious running, however, is coming off a shock loss in January when Knockaru Beau beat the fancied horse in the Cleeve Hurdle.
"If it had been a normal year, he'd have run at Newbury in November [Long Distance Hurdle] where we normally start the season off," Nicholls was quoted as saying by Skysports.com. "I wanted him to have a hard race to see where we were with him -- and if he was going to get to Cheltenham we needed a hard race.
"Sam Twiston-Davies did exactly as I wanted him to do - you ride a stayer like a stayer, you don't ride a stayer like a sprinter -- and he had the race won jumping the last, but just got tired.
"I walked the course that day just before we had all those thunderstorms and the ground from the back of the last to the winning post was virtually unraceable, and he just got tired. He's had seven weeks since then. He's bloomed, he looks fantastic and is a lot lighter.
"He had a good gallop at Exeter the other day and he's schooled well. I'm very happy with him and the one thing he'll enjoy is the drying ground.
"All his best wins have been on good or good to soft, so the omens are good with the weather, he looks great and I'm very much looking forward to the challenge of the race."
Question marks hang over the capabilities of Annie Power to stay the three-mile long distance, a distance that the unbeaten horse has never travelled before.
"We massively respect the mare," Big Buck's owner Andy Stewart said. "She's unbeaten, but there are question marks over whether she will stay and if Big Buck's is back to his top form is she good enough?"
Where to Watch Live
The Cheltenham Festival Day 3 is scheduled for a 1.30 pm GMT (7 pm IST, 8.30 am ET) start with live coverage on Channel 4. The broadcaster will start their coverage from the morning and viewers in the UK can catch the action via live streaming online HERE or HERE. Racing UK is also an option to catch the action live online -- all the races will be shown live -- with the live streaming link HERE.
The racing will also be shown on BetFred TV at their stations, while the YouTube page with all the previews can be viewed HERE. The Cheltenham TV link is available HERE, with the radio link HERE (viewers can listen to the action online within five miles of the race course). Viewers can listen to the action via radio courtesy BBC Radio 5 Live HERE.