28 entries have been made for the Champion Hurdle – the feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2017, including defending champion Annie Power and 2015 winner Faugheen.
The Willie Mullins pair are two of the nine entries for the Irish Champion Trainer who has also entered Nichols Canyon, Wicklow Brave, Vroum Vroum Mag, Clondaw Warrior, Diaklali, Footpad and Ivan Grozny.
Mullins has taken the last three renewals of the premier two-mile hurdle and will no doubt send a strong team for 2017. Between now and March much will be made of Faugheen and Annie Power, who are leading contenders but are unlikely to both line-up for the race.
Faugheen has not been seen since the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2016 when he produced his finest ever performance. While rumours have circulated about Annie Power’s well-being since her victory at Aintree in April 2016.
Alan King trains the leading British hope in the shape of Yanworth. This seasons Christmas Hurdle winner is jostling for second-favouritism after his impressive performance at Kempton. While the JP McManus star will need a strong pace dropped back to two-miles, he is a powerful horse who could provide King with a second win in the race.
Superb Story provided young trainer Dan Skelton with his first win at the Cheltenham Festival, when taking the County Hurdle in 2016. Now the six-year-old will take the step out of handicap company after his smooth reappearance win at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.
Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer in the history of the Champion Hurdle with five wins and while he has no standout performer several of his entries are capable of running a big race. Brain Power, who has been something of a sleeper gamble for the race. Introduced at 25-1 when he crossed the line at Ascot a month ago, he is now a general 12-1 chance.
It is also possible that JLT Novices’ Chase-bound Buveur D’Air will run, should his career over fences fail to take off.
Moon Racer is currently favourite for the opening race of The Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but David Pipe has given his talented hurdler an entry for the Champion Hurdle on the same day. The Champion Bumper winner from 2015 has been visually impressive in his two runs this season and could be an outside chance at massive odds should he line-up.
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