Thistlecrack heads 10 in Cleeve Hurdle

Rising star Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard) heads 10 entries for the £60,000 Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle (3.35pm), run over three miles and one of the highlights of Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham this Saturday, January 30.

A Grade Two success at Newbury in November, followed by a Grade One win at Ascot the following month has propelled the eight-year-old Thistlecrack to the head of the ante-post market for the Grade One World Hurdle at The Festival on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 17.

A horse already on the scoresheet at the Home of Jump Racing this season is Camping Ground (Robert Walford), who was the impressive winner of the Grade Two Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day and holds entries in both the Stan James Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle at The Festival.

There is one previous winner of the Cleeve Hurdle among this year’s entries in Knockara Beau (George Charlton), who caused a 66/1 shock when scoring in 2014. The now 13-year-old showed he was no back number who finishing runner-up under a big weight in a competitive three-mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Two entries hail from Ireland with Alpha Des Obeaux (set to miss the race according to trainer Mouse Morris) and Guitar Pete (Sandra Hughes).

Guitar Pete, who finished third in the 2014 JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival, could revert to hurdles having run over fences so far this season.

Sandra Hughes, trainer of Guitar Pete, said: “We haven’t yet decided as to whether we will bring over Guitar Pete for the Cleeve Hurdle, as he also has an entry at Thurles on Thursday. I need to speak to his owner Mr Sloan and make a decision.

“He is very well in himself and we just thought that going back over hurdles at some point during the season could give us another option with him. We think he will stay three miles – if he does go to Cheltenham we will find out.”

Other interesting entries include Ptit Zig (Paul Nicholls), who was fifth in last season’s Stan James Champion Hurdle. He chased home Vautour in a Grade Two chase at Ascot in November but has failed to compete on his last two starts over fences. The Young Master (Neil Mulholland) is another entry who could go back over hurdles. Winner of the Listed Silver Cup over fences at Ascot last season, he was fourth on his latest appearance when attempting a repeat victory in the same race.

Completing the entries are The Romford Pele (Rebecca Curtis), Anteros (Sophie Leech) and Kayflin (Linda Jewell).

Entries have also been unveild for the opening £40,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (12.40pm, eight entries) over an extended two miles. Nicky Henderson, who won this race 12 months ago with subsequent JCB Triumph Hurdle scorer Peace And Co, has two entries with Consul De Thaix and Protek Des Flos, who could both make their British debuts. Willie Mullins has entered Allblak Des Places, successful at Fairyhouse last month.

One entry to have already won at Cheltenham is Wolf Of Windlesham (Stuart Edmonds), who landed the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at The Open in November. The son of Mastercraftsman was also successful on his only other start over hurdles, scoring at Ludlow in October.

Who Dares Wins (Alan King) is currently around the 14/1 mark for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, following two successes over hurdles, including a comfortable 20-length win in a Grade Two contest at Doncaster on December 12. He was a three-time winner on the Flat last summer, when trained by Richard Hannon.

Paul Nicholls is doubly represented with Clan Des Obeaux, a winner at Newbury in December and Tommy Silver, who finished second on his British debut, while Duke Of Medina (Harry Whittington) was a good second to leading JCB Triumph Hurdle hope Gibralfaro at Kempton Park over Christmas.

The highlight of Festival Trials Day is the £100,000 BetBright Trial Chase (1.50pm, 11 entries) which is set to see last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam (Willie Mullins) return to the Home of Jump Racing.

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