Hurricane heads small Champion field
Ruby Walsh riding Hurricane Fly clears the last to win The BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Racing:Hurricane Fly heads one of the smallest Champion Hurdle fields in recent times at the Cheltenham Festival next Tuesday, after just 10 horses were left in the contest at the six-day entry stage.
The Willie Mullins-trained winner of the race in 2011 bids to regain his crown at the expense of rivals that include last year's victor Rock On Ruby.
All of the main players have stood their ground, with Nicky Henderson declaring Grandouet, Binocular and Oscar Whisky, while Paul Nicholls has left Zarkandar in.
Last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes is in the field, along with Cotton Mill. runner-up to My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle last time out, Balder Succes and Countrywide Flame, winner of the Triumph Hurdle 12 months ago.
It is 1980 since the last single-figure field went to post for the Champion Hurdle, Sea Pigeon beating eight rivals under Pat Muldoon.
Quevega heads 22 remaining in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, ahead of her attempt to win the race for the fifth successive season.
Mullins's nine-year-old will go into the Festival a fresh horse as she usually does with Une Artiste likely to head the opposition.
Nicky Henderson's mare won the Fred Winter last year and is unbeaten in two starts this season.
She could be joined in the race by stablemate Ma Filleule though Utopie Des Bordes was taken out of the race as expected.
Last year's runner-up Kentford Grey Lady is in the list along with Paul Webber's Alasi, Donald McCain's She Ranks Me and David Pipe's Swing Bowler.
Of those fairly prominent in the betting that have been taken out, Mullins's Twigline and Oliver Sherwood's Mischievous Milly stand out.
Cheltenian is one of 19 horses remaining in the Supremefollowing the confirmation stage, with no notable defections.
The JP McManus-owned duo of My Tent Or Yours and Jezki are still in the mix, while Un Atout is one of four possible runners for Mullins, the others being Champagne Fever, Mozoltov and Pique Sous.
Dodging Bullets is the only possible contender for British champion Paul Nicholls, with Melodic Rendezvous a major player for Jeremy Scott.
Puffin Billy and Rule The World are still in the frame, but both appear more likely to take in the longer Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle a day later.