Fighting foes renew rivalry
Countrywide Flame and Cinders And Ashes are on target for a rematch in the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
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The former, trained by John Quinn, won the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last season and routed his Donald McCain-trained rival in the Fighting Fifith Hurdle at Newcastle.
Countrywide Flame also had the option of heading to Ireland for the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29 but will instead run at Kempton.
Cinders And Ashes won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and faces another familiar rival on Wednesday in Darlan, who finished second that day before winning at Aintree.
His trainer Nicky Henderson is also represented by Punjabi, who has not raced for 978 days.
Darlan's owner JP McManus also has the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Get Me Out Of Here declared for the Christmas Hurdle while Paul Nicholls saddles Dodging Bullets, winner of both his starts this term.
Raya Star and Mad Moose complete the line-up with Brampour, Cotton Mill and Qalinas the three defections at the final declaration stage.
Alan King is happy to take on the likes of Countrywide Flame with Raya Star. "Countrywide Flame is favourite for the Christmas Hurdle, but we are rated only 3lb behind the Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner, so Raya Star is entitled to take his place in the field," the Barbury Castle trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
"He has been in good form since his second to Oscar Whisky at Ascot."