Hurricane Fly faces eight rivals
Hurricane Fly will face eight rivals when he bids for a third victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday.
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Willie Mullins' brilliant 10-year-old will be aiming to secure an incredible 20th Grade One success in the feature event on the opening day of the Festival.
Hurricane Fly is the Irish champion trainer's only runner after the expected withdrawals of Annie Power, Un De Sceaux and Thousand Stars.
Mullins son and assistant Patrick told At The Races: "They're not running because they won't beat Hurricane Fly!
"You've got to do what you think is best for each horse. Annie Power we hope might be a Gold Cup horse and Un Des Sceaux has no experience of a race like the Champion Hurdle. We hope he might be up to that level but it will have to be next season now. You've seen that he can be a bit free and he still has something to learn.
"Hurricane Fly travelled over to Cheltenham on Saturday. He travelled well, he settled well and it's all systems go."
The New One, representing Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies, is rated by bookmakers as the biggest threat to Hurricane Fly, while last year's jaw-dropping Triumph Hurdle hero Our Conor has twice run well behind Mullins' champion this season.
Trainer Dessie Hughes reported Our Conor has settled in well at the Prestbury Park stables, saying: "He went over on Thursday and all is good with him.
"He thrived when he got there last year before winning the Triumph, so we decided to send him over again well in advance of his target."
Nicky Henderson's My Tent Or Yours appears to be the other major contender for Hurricane Fly's crown, and although he suffered a minor foot injury last week, he goes in as owner JP McManus' No 1 challenger.
McManus also has the Jessica Harrington-trained Jezki - who has been declared to wear a hood for the first time - and likely pacemaker Captain Cee Bee among the final declarations.
Jeremy Scott's stable star Melodic Rendezvous, Paul Nicholls' Ptit Zig and the Alan King-trained Grumeti complete the Champion Hurdle field.
The combatants appear set to battle it out on decent ground, with clerk of the course Simon Claisse removing any final 'soft' parts from his going description on Saturday - current conditions are good to soft all over with drying weather likely until Tuesday.