Hurricane Fly heads 10 remaining in the Champion Hurdle

Filed on 7 Mar 2013 @ 09:12

Your Tent Or Mine heads Supreme runners as Cheltenham fields take shape

Hot favourite Hurricane Fly heads 10 horses going forward for the Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next Tuesday after the six-day confirmations were revealed. The nine-year-old captured the extended two-mile championship in 2011 and will attempt to become the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the Stan James Champion Hurdle crown after finishing third in last year's renewal.

Hurricane Fly comes into this season's edition in fine form having won his last four starts, all in Grade One company, and he appeared as good as ever when seeing off Thousand Stars and 2010 Stan James Champion Hurdle hero Binocular in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 27.

The home challenge is led by the Paul Nicholls-trained Zarkandar, who landed the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival two years ago. The six-year-old was reportedly under the weather when fifth in last season's Stan James Champion Hurdle but is unbeaten in three starts this term and took the scalps of Grandouet and the defending champion Rock On Ruby in the International at Cheltenham in December.

Countrywide Flame, successful in the 2012 JCB Triumph Hurdle for trainer John Quinn, announced himself as a serious Stan James Champion Hurdle contender when thrashing last season's William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in early December. The pair subsequently came home fourth and fifth in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and the latter has not been seen since, while Countrywide Flame was beaten three lengths by Rock On Ruby in a Listed contest at Doncaster on February 4.

As well as Binocular and Grandouet, Nicky Henderson is likely to saddle Grade One scorer Khyber Kim, who made an encouraging return after a 22-month absence when chasing home Zarkandar in the Grade Two Kingwell Hurdle on February 16.

The 10 confirmations are completed by Betfair Hurdle runner-up Cotton Mill, who may run in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle for trainer John Ferguson, and Alan King's Balder Succes.

The action on Champion Day gets underway with the £120,000 William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle (1.30pm) and all the main contenders remain engaged including impressive Betfair Hurdle scorer My Tent Or Yours, as well as leading Irish hopes Jezki and Un Atout, who are both unbeaten over hurdles.

The home team also includes Dodging Bullets and Jeremy Scott's Melodic Rendezvous, who has won three of his four starts over hurdles including the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January. He completed his preparation for The Festival with a nine-length win at Exeter on February 10.

Scott said: "Melodic Rendezvous has come out of his run at Exeter very well and relatively speaking we are very happy with him.

"He will still have an entry in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle but unless something happens between now and then, the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle is the target.

"After he works on Thursday, we will get him checked out by the vet and make sure everything is hunky dory and, if everyone is happy, it's all systems go.

"I think his form is solid enough but the biggest problem is trying to work out how horses are going to act on slightly quicker ground. We always thought he wanted quite good ground and I have every expectation he will be happy on what is likely to be good, good to soft ground."

The £150,000 Grade One Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase (2.05pm) is being billed as a match race between Simonsig and Overturn, and the pair headline 12 contenders going forward. Arvika Ligeonniere, a dual Grade One winner in Ireland,is one of three remaining entries for Willie Mullins.

Top-weight Uncle Junior and last year's winner Balthazar King are among 31 horses still in the £50,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeplechase over just short of four miles.

Quevega heads 22 entries remaining in the £85,000 Grade Two OLBG Mares' Hurdle (4.40pm) as she goes in pursuit of her fifth consecutive victory in the extended two and a half mile contest. Her possible challengers include stablemates Tarla and Zuzka as well as last season's Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle heroine Une Artiste, trained by Nicky Henderson.

Maximum fields of 24 and 20 look guaranteed for the £90,000 JLT Specialty Handicap Chase (2.40pm) over an extended three miles and the £60,000 Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase (5.15pm) over an extended two and a half miles, with 57 and 54 confirmations respectively.

Filed on 7 Mar 2013 @ 09:12