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Shishkin is to the fore in the curtain-raiser

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PROSPECT: Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin. Photo: Edward Whitaker

PROSPECT: Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin. Photo: Edward Whitaker

PROSPECT: Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin. Photo: Edward Whitaker

Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge are two of 16 runners declared for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham today.

Since making it no further than the second flight on his hurdling debut, Nicky Henderson's Shishkin has proved himself a top-class prospect with two facile victories at Newbury and Huntingdon - propelling him to favouritism for the traditional Festival curtain-raiser.

Henderson also runs Chantry House and Allart in his bid for a fourth Supreme success.

Willie Mullins has won the race more than any other trainer, saddling four of the last seven winners and six in all, with Tourist Attraction providing him with his very first Festival success when striking gold in 1995.

His chief contender this time around is Asterion Forlonge, who, like Shishkin, carries the colours of owner Joe Donnelly.

The grey is unbeaten in three starts under rules and ran away with a Grade One at Leopardstown last month.

Like Henderson, Mullins fires a three-pronged assault, with Elixir D'Ainay and Berkshire Royal - who makes his hurdling debut - also featuring in the final field.

After confirming his star novice Envoi Allen will run in the Ballymore tomorrow, Gordon Elliott relies on Abacadabras, while Tolworth Hurdle winner Fiddlerontheroof is a leading contender for Colin Tizzard.

Edwardstone (Alan King), Captain Guinness (Henry de Bromhead) and Soviet Pimpernel (Peter Fahey) are others of note.

Eleven runners are set to go to post for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy, with De Bromhead's Notebook and the Mullins-trained Cash Back renewing rivalry after finishing first and second in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown last month.

Joseph O'Brien's Fakir D'Oudairies is another major hope for Ireland, while the home team includes Olly Murphy's Brewin'upastorm, Dan Skelton's Maire Banrigh and the Evan Williams-trained Esprit Du Large.

Kim Bailey's Vinndication heads a field of 24 runners declared for the Ultima Handicap Chase, although that number will be reduced by one after General Principle was declared an early non-runner.

Rivals

Vinndication's rivals include Paul Nolan's Discorama, Ben Pauling's Kildisart and The Conditional from David Bridgwater's yard.

Just 7lb separates the 22 contenders for the Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase.

Henderson's Precious Cargo and Mick Channon's Hold The Note head the weights, with Henry Daly's Whatmore and and the Noel Williams-trained Sensulano at the bottom. Kim Bailey's Imperial Aura and Elliott's Galvin are the top two in the market.

Willie and Patrick Mullins combine with hot favourite Carefully Selected in the concluding National Hunt Chase.

The eight-year-old is set to face 13 rivals, including Richard Hobson's Lord Du Mesnil - the mount of Sam Waley-Cohen - and Elliott's Ravenhill, who is ridden by Jamie Codd.