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Hurricane defending Champion

DEFENDING champion Hurricane Fly is among 27 horses entered for the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 13.

Willie Mullins' excellent hurdler has not been seen since his emphatic win at the Punchestown Festival last May, but is due to reappear in the Irish Champion Hurdle next weekend where he can dispel any doubts about his wellbeing.

Ireland's champion trainer has enviable strength in depth in the race, and has also entered Thousand Stars, So Young, Mikael D'Haguenet, Zaidpour, Final Approach and Flat Out.

Nicky Henderson is another with multiple entries. Spirit Son, due to have a racecourse gallop at Newbury on Thursday, 2010 champion Binocular, last year's third, Oscar Whisky, and the improving Grandouet comprise his strong squad.

Paul Nicholls also has a strong hand. Rock On Ruby, narrowly denied at the Festival last year, Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar, Greatwood scorer Brampour and the durable Celestial Halo could all represent the Ditcheat maestro.

A possible improver could be Dermot Weld's Unaccompanied, who looked impressive when beating Thousand Stars in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle. She is first due to put her credentials on the line first against Hurricane Fly next weekend.

Stan Cosgrove, racing manager for her owners, Moyglare Stud, said: "She is due to run in the Irish Champion Hurdle and then hopefully she will head on to Cheltenham.

"I think that Dermot is confident she can run well against Hurricane Fly and we have to take him on at some point.

"She was impressive in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle, when she was given a great ride by Paul Townend, and her run in the Triumph Hurdle last year was very good.


"She is better with a bit of give in the ground but she beat St Nicholas Abbey on the Flat last year and I can definitely see her as a contender for the Champion Hurdle."

The Donald McCain-trained Overturn has run some great races this season, including a defeat of Binocular in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, and will aim to go one better than stablemate Peddlers Cross managed last season.

Peddlers Cross has also been given an entry, but is one of the favourites for the Arkle Trophy over fences. Oscars Well, Staying Article, Olofi and long-term absentee Bobby Ewing are also engaged at this stage.