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2017 £hampon Hurdle Confirmations
Sat, Dec 31st, 2016

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Favourite Yanworth heads 13 confirmations for the £400,000 Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle (3.30pm) over two miles, the highlight at Cheltenham on the first day of The Festival, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 14.

Yanworth (Alan King), one of three contenders for owner J P McManus, is the 11/4 market leader with Stan James after an unbeaten campaign. The seven-year-old defeated The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 14/1 with Stan James) in G1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park on Boxing Day before repelling Ch'Tibello (Dan Skelton, 33/1) in workmanlike fashion in the G2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on February 18.

Buveur D'Air , also owned by J P McManus, heads a three-strong team for trainer Nicky Henderson. He is the 4/1 second favourite after cruising to victory in the Listed Contenders Hurdle at Sandown Park on February 4.

Henderson also plans to run Michael Buckley's Brain Power (7/1), an impressive five-length winner of the valuable G3 Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas, and dual Stan James Champion Hurdle runner-up, 10-year-old My Tent Or Yours (14/1).

Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Ch'Tibello has progressed with each start this season. He was five and half lengths adrift of Yanworth when third in the Christmas Hurdle but narrowed that margin to a length at Wincanton in receipt of four pounds, after which he had a wind operation.

Trainer Dan Skelton said today: "As long as we get a clean run with Ch'Tibello between now and Tuesday, he will run. I have been happy enough with him and that is why I have confirmed him.

"I need him to be fresh and well by next Tuesday. I have got a week and I think he will have improved even more by then.

"He is probably too big a price as things stand but it is a Champion Hurdle and everything will be the correct price on the day. I think if he lines up he is not without an each-way chance - his recent form behind Yanworth tells you that."

Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has won four of the last six renewals with Hurricane Fly, Faugheen and Annie Power. He is set to rely on two-time G1 winner Footpad (16/1) and 2015 County Hurdle victor Wicklow Brave (33/1), successful on his penultimate start in the G1 Irish St Leger on the Flat.

Mullins has also left in prolific mare Vroum Vroum Mag (9/1), although she is more likely to bid for a repeat success in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle later the same day.

The Irish challenge is completed by front-running grey Petit Mouchoir (Henry de Bromhead, 5/1). He beat Nichols Canyon by seven lengths at Leopardstown over Christmas before holding Footpad by a length in the G1 Irish Champion Hurdle at the same course on January 29.

Moon Racer (David Pipe, 10/1) could bid to become the first novice to triumph since Make A Stand in 1997. He also has the option of the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

The Stan James Champion Hurdle confirmations are completed by G2 scorers Sceau Royal (Alan King, 25/1) and Cyrus Darius (Malcolm Jefferson, 33/1).

1.30pm £125,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f
Willie Mullins has dominated the role of honour for the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle in recent years and the trainer has another strong hand as he bids for a sixth success in the curtain raiser to The Festival.

The Closutton handler is responsible for 10 of the 26 six-day confirmations, including Sky Bet's 4/1 joint-favourite Melon, who made an impressive debut winner over hurdles at Leopardstown at the end of January, and G1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle runner-up Bunk Off Early (13/2).

G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle scorer Neon Wolf (4/1 joint-favourite with Sky Bet, Harry Fry) remains engaged alongside Ballyandy (9/2, Nigel Twiston-Davies) and Movewiththetimes (7/1, Paul Nicholls), who were first and second in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. The 2015 Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer (5/1, David Pipe) also goes forward.

2.10pm £175,000 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m
Altior (Nicky Henderson) looks set to be sent off one of the shortest-priced favourites of The Festival as he bids to follow up victory in last year's Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle with success in the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase, which has 15 six-day acceptors.

The seven-year-old has been imperious over fences this season, winning all four of his starts including a 13-length success over non-novice opposition in a G2 chase at Newbury on February 11.

His rivals could include Yorkhill (Willie Mullins IRE), who also boasts a perfect record over fences, and Charbel (Kim Bailey), who was runner-up to Altior in the G1 Racing Post Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown Park in December.

2.50pm £105,000 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f
This season's G3 BetVictor Gold Cup scorer Taquin Du Seuil (Jonjo O'Neill), who captured the G1 JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival in 2014, heads 51 confirmations for the G3 Ultima Handicap Chase.

Un Temps Pour Tout (David Pipe) may bid to become only the third horse to win the race twice, having scored by seven lengths 12 months ago, with valuable Leopardstown handicap chase victor Noble Endeavor (Gordon Elliott IRE) and progressive novice Singlefarmpayment (Tom George) also engaged. A Maximum of 24 horses can run.

4.10pm £110,000 OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f
Willie Mullins has sent out eight of the nine winners of the G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle and the trainer has seven contenders of 28 contenders going forward in this year's renewal including Vroum Vroum Mag, who took the spoils 12 months ago.

Limini , successful in the 2016 G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle, and Let's Dance also feature among the Mullins-trained contenders, while Apple's Jade, runner-up for Mullins in the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival last year, could line up for Gordon Elliott.

4.50pm £120,000 J T McNamara National Hunt Chase (Novices) (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 4m
The J T McNamara National Hunt Chase, which has been upgraded to G2 level this year, has 26 six-day acceptors including A Genie In Abottle (Noel Meade), who was a close second in a three-mile G3 novices' chase at Navan at the end of January.

Edwulf , a dual winner over fences this term, will be trying to provide trainer Joseph O'Brien with an initial success at The Festival in his first season with a licence. Last season's G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle third Champers On Ice (David Pipe), and Beware The Bear (Nicky Henderson), who has won both his chase starts to date, also go forward.

The 2015 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle victor Martello Tower (Margaret Mullins IRE) and Coneygree's half-brother Flintham (Mark Bradstock) are other interesting contenders.

5.30pm £70,000 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (0-140) (Listed) 2m 4½f
The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase looks set to be another ultra-competitive affair with 44 of the 53 acceptors due to carry 11st 1lb or more. Top-weights have won three of the five last renewals and Zamdy Man (Venetia Williams), successful at Uttoxeter, Ludlow and Newcastle this season, will be aiming to continue the fine record of those at the head of the handicap.

Foxtail Hill (Nigel Twiston-Davies) gamely took the G3 Hugo's Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase on Festival Trials Day, while other leading contenders include the Dan Skelton-trainer pair of Value At Risk and Its'afreebee plus last year's G3 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle second Romain De Senam (Paul Nicholls). A maximum field of 20 horses can line up.

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