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Cheltenham Festival 2015: Big guns among eight left in Champion Hurdle

Only eight runners remain in the Champion Hurdle after the latest declaration stage, but all the major players have stood their ground in what promises to be an enthralling renewal on Tuesday, March 10th.

Half of the potential runners were scratched at today’s six-day stage, but last year’s winner Jezki remains in the mix along with Faugheen, Huricane Fly and The New One.

The unbeaten Faugheen remains a rock solid even-money favourite with Coral followed by The New One (3/1), Jezki (5/1) and Hurricane Fly (8/1).

Others left in the 2m championship contest are Arctic Fire (14/1), Bertimont (100/1), Kitten Rock (25/1) and the Nicky Henderson trained Vaniteux (33/1).

Cyclone handed Ryanair ticket
Irish trainer Shark Hanlon today confirmed that Hidden Cyclone will be aimed at the Raynair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival rather than the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The gelding finished runner-up to Dynaste in the race 12 months ago, and is 8/1 with Coral to go one better in the 2m 5f contest on Thursday, March 12th.

Hanlon’s decision comes following a couple of notable defections from the Ryanair which have given the race a wide-open look.
He told At The Races: “We’ve just made a decision that we’ll go for the Ryanair. There’s no Dynaste there this year and with Cue Card pulling out this week, we are heading that way.

“Up to now we were heading towards the Champion Chase but with no Cue Card and the ground drying out, it’s likely to be good by Thursday, so we’re turning that way.”

Riding plans for Champion Hurdle outsider Kitten Rock undecided
Trainer Edward O’Grady is unsure who will take over in the saddle from the sidelined Mark Walsh aboard 25/1 outsider Kitten Rock in next week’s Champion Hurdle.

Walsh has steered the JP McManus-owned five-year-old to a hat-trick of victories this season, but is set for a spell on the sidelines after suffering a broken arm in a fall at Thurles last week.

Kitten Rock was a runaway winner of the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park last month, and is a progressive sort who remains open to bags of improvement.

O’Grady, who had made no secret about how highly he regards Kitren Rock, said: “The plan is to run and he seems in very good form. I’m happy with him and he’s in good shape. I don’t know who will ride. No decision has been made.”