sights set on The Festival
Entries have been revealed for the three Grade One novices’ hurdles at The Festival – the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Champion Day, Tuesday, 10th March), the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Ladies Day, Wednesday, 11th March) and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Gold Cup Day, Friday, 13th March).
There are also entries for the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle (Gold Cup Day), which is restricted to four-year-olds.
Douvan tops 83 entries for the £120,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over an extended two miles. The five-year-old is unbeaten in two starts for Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins and was not extended to win the Grade Two sportinglife.com Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on 10th January.
Mullins accounts for 18 of the 38 Irish-trained horses and is seeking a third consecutive win in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle following on from Vautour and Champagne Fever. The Co Carlow handler has also put in another ex-French horse Alvisio Ville, a facile winner at Leopardstown over Christmas, Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle victor Nichols Canyon and Tell Us More, who was narrowly beaten by stable companion McKinley in the Grade One Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas on 4th January.
Dermot Weld has two engaged, headed by last year’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper hero Silver Concorde, while Henry de Bromhead is responsible for Grade One scorer Sizing John and the unbeaten Identity Thief.
L’Ami Serge is the shortest-priced British-trained entry after three impressive victories since joining Nicky Henderson. The French import recorded a 14-length victory in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle on his latest start at Sandown Park on 3rd January.
Henderson has also entered Peace And Co, who is ante-post favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Doncaster scorer Cardinal Walter and Aintree maiden hurdle winner Hunters’ Hoof.
Other eye-catching entries include Jollyallan (Harry Fry) and Seedling (Warren Greatrex), who are both unbeaten in three starts over hurdles this season, plus high-class Flat recruit Dabadiyan (Gary Moore).
Parlour Games (John Ferguson) is among 109 engaged for the £120,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle over an extended two and a half miles. The seven-year-old won the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle during The Open at Cheltenham in November and followed up in the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on 29th December.
Nicky Henderson is responsible for nine entries including dual Grade Two scorer Vyta Du Roc and Kilcrea Vale, who powered to a 26-length victory on his hurdling debut at Market Rasen on 15th January.
Willie Mullins has 24 of the 44 Irish-trained horses engaged, including Douvan, top-class bumper performer Shaneshill, and the Gigginstown House Stud-owned pair of Outlander and McKinley.
Liz Doyle has entered Kauto Grand Mogol, who is a half-brother to the great Kauto Star and dual Grade One-winning chaser Kauto Stone. The seven-year-old has won two of his three starts over hurdles this term and was last seen out when powering to a 32-length victory in a novice hurdle at Thurles on 21st December.
He finished fourth to Free Expression in a Grade Two over two and half miles at Navan on 23rd November, having scored by eight lengths on his hurdling debut at Limerick on 9th November. Kauto Grand Mogol also holds an entry in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles.
Doyle said: “Kauto Grand Mogol is very well. He will go to Clonmel for a Grade Three on 5th February and then we will decide about Cheltenham.
“I am hoping we can draw a line through his run at Navan because he never travelled or jumped and was beaten a long way out.
“His performance in Thurles the next day suggested Navan wasn’t his true running and, if that’s proved the case, he is definitely on the upgrade.
“Clonmel is a stiff two mile six furlongs and it will be interesting to see what he can do back in Graded company.
“He did not look short of gears at Thurles but his pedigree suggests he will stay three miles and we hope he will.”
Last year’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper hero Black Hercules is the ante-post favourite for the £120,000 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (97 entries) on the back of a Grade Three triumph at Cork in December and one of 21 entered by Willie Mullins.
There are a record 42 Irish-trained entries in total, including highly-regarded Grade Two victor No More Heroes (Gordon Elliott) and the consistent Martello Tower (Margaret Mullins).
Noel Meade took the spoils last year with Very Wood and has four engaged, headed by easy Navan scorer Snow Falcon, while Mouse Morris has nominated Alpha Des Obeaux and Baily Cloud.
A strong British entry includes Orbo Ab Chao (Alan King), who narrowly got the better of Value At Risk (Dan Skelton) on Festival Trials Day, and impressive course and distance scorer Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies).
Owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede dominate the 70 entries for the £120,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle over two miles and a furlong. The pair have six involved, headed by market leaders Peace And Co (Nicky Henderson) and Bristol De Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies).
Peace And Co has captured Grade Two contests at Doncaster and Cheltenham impressively, while Bristol De Mai bounded into the limelight when taking the Grade One Finale Hurdle by six lengths at Chepstow over Christmas.
Willie Mullins has four of the 15 Irish-trained entries, headed by the Susannah Ricci-owned pair of Kalkir and Dicosimo, while Haigoa, trained by Xavier Thomas-Demeaulte, is the French-trained contender.
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