Dunguib set to reign supreme
The six-day entries for the Champion Hurdle were revealed yesterday and there was little surprise in studying the list of 18 remaining as Supreme Novice Hurdle-bound Dunguib was taken out as was Mares Hurdle favourites Quevega and Voler La Vedette.
Remaining in the reckoning were the doubtful duo of Binocular and Solwhit with a later decision set to be taken on both of those major figures in the race.
The £1million bonus-searching Go Native heads the entries along with the Nicky Henderson trained trio of Zaynar, Binocular and last year's winner Punjabi.
Celestial Halo will be bidding to go that shade better for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh while Khyber Kim, Medermit and Starluck are the other main home challengers, while Ebadiyan, Jumbo Rio and Won In The Dark are among the challenging contingent.
There were no major defectors from the Irish Independent Arkle either although Tataniano and Long Run were taken out of contention.
In a race which hosts a large Irish challenge, the leading duo of Captain Cee Bee and Sizing Europe will be joined by the Edward O'Grady- trained Osana as well as at least one of the Willie Mullins trio, which includes Quiscover Fontaine, Shakervilz and Sports Line.
Noel Meade's former Festival winner Nicanor, who famously overturned Denman on that occasion, is joined by Fosters Cross in completing the Irish entries, while the pick of the English selection is the Henrietta Knight-trained Somersby.
Dunguib headed the Supreme Novices Hurdle entries as expected and Philip Fenton is looking forward to next Tuesday's opening race.
"Dunguib is grand and all has gone smoothly, no problems thankfully. He'll possibly jump a few flights on Thursday morning before he heads off," revealed Fenton.
"We've taken him out of the Champion Hurdle and he goes for the Supreme. I've been very happy with him since Leopardstown, he's jumped several hurdles since and he's jumped them well."
Paddy Power, who will refund all losing single bets if Dunguib wins the race, have also revealed that they will donate £1,000 to Spinal Research for every length the seven-year-old wins by.
"If he wins half a length that will do for us, but hopefully he can do better than that for Spinal Research," Fenton concluded.
Willie Mullins spoke in a bullish manner regarding Blackstairmountain earlier in the week and racing manager to JP McManus Frank Berry is happy with the form the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Get Me Out Of Here is in.
"He came out of his last race well," explained Berry.
"He got a bit of a gash at Newbury but he's fine again now and Jonjo is very pleased with him. He goes there in good shape."
Boylesports have opened a book on the race without Dunguib, for which Get Me Out Of Here is favourite at 5/2.
Berry also gave an upbeat report on Garde Champetre as he bids to provide a rapturous reception on the opening day by taking another renewal of the banks race under Nina Carberry.
"They are in great order and we couldn't be happier with them," Berry said of the Enda Bolger-trained quintet (Garde Champetre, L'Ami, Freneys Well, Drombeag and Heads Onthe Ground) who remained in the Cross Country race yesterday.
Henry de Bromhead is under no illusion as to the mountain he has to climb to overcome the Bolger team as he saddles Sizing Australia.
"Australia is in great order and we're looking forward to running him again," said the Waterford trainer.
"Enda Bolger obviously has a monopoly on the race at the moment but our horse has run well round there before so we'll see how he gets on."
De Bromhead will not be sending over the promising Loosen My Load to contest one of the novice contests and instead he will be kept for the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals after taking longer than expected to come to hand following his break.
"Loosen My Load is fine but we've decided not to go to Cheltenham with him this year as he isn't ready," added de Bromhead.
"He started off in bumpers in the summer last year so we had to give him a break at some stage and it has just taken a while to bring him back to fitness.
"Cheltenham is just going to come too soon but he'll be ready for Fairyhouse and hopefully then we'll have a fresh horse to go on to Punchestown as well."
Punchestown is also on the agenda for yesterday's Naas winner Some Slam who landed the opener for Tom Mullins and Niall Madden.
Some Slam made every yard a winning one in the hands of the local jockey but Mullins is going against the temptation of heading to Cheltenham and instead head to Punchestown where he feels his charge will take a lot beating.
Supreme Novices Hurdle w/o Dunguib, Boylesports Bet: 5/2 Get Me Out Of Here, 9/2 Blackstairmountain, 9/2 Rite Of Passage, 11/2 Oscar Whisky, 6/1 Menorah, 8/1 Bellvano, 10/1 Dan Breen, 10/1 Peddlers Cross, 10/1 Flat Out, 12/1 General Miller, 20/1 Pepe Simo, 20/1 Puyol, 33/1 Some Present, 40/1 Dinarius, 40/1 Arvika Ligeonniere, 40/1 Gus Macrae, 40/1 Grieg,o Vino 40/1 Inventor, 50/1 bar.