Hurricane Fly heads a list of just 18 entries for Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly is one of four entries from leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins for the highlight of the opening day of the Cheltenham festival in March. The unbeaten Annie Power and Un Des Sceaux are also in the list along with former County Hurdle winner Thousand Stars.
The reigning champion will bid to become the oldest winner of the race since Sea Pigeon scored at the age of 11 back in 1981. The younger generation are snapping at his heels but Annie Power and Un Des Sceaux will have other entries at the meeting.
The market suggests that My Tent Or Yours and The New One, first and second in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, are the two most likely to trouble the champion. Nicky Henderson reports My Tent Or Yours to be in great form and he will definitely have one more run before Cheltenham.
He will either go to Wincanton for the Kingwell Hurdle or Sandown for the Contenders Hurdle as his final prep race. Henderson is trying to win the Champion Hurdle for a record sixth time and has also entered Grandouet and Rolling Star.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has left nobody in any doubt about just how highly he rates The New One who was arguably unlucky at Kempton. He was forced to take up the running early on that day and also made a costly mistake at the last flight. He is hoping for a fast pace in the Champion Hurdle so that The New One’s challenge can be delayed until the last possible moment.
Hurricane Fly comfortably accounted for Jezki and Our Conor in the Ryanair Hurdle but connections of both are optimistic of turning the tables in the Irish Champion Hurdle later this month. Our Conor may have needed his first start of the season whilst Jezki had to switch around him to deliver his challenge.
Paul Nicholls relies on Ptit Zig this year, although he is by no means a certain starter. The Ditcheat trainer was thrilled with his run when second in the The Ladbroke Hurdle and cannot wait to run him over fences next season.
Harry Fry has entered 2011 champion Rock On Ruby but only as a back-up plan in case he fails to progress over fences. He won on his jumping debut at Plumpton and his primary target is the Arkle Challenge Trophy.