Aidan O'Brien: could have first Cheltenham Festival runner for 11 yearsPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
O'Brien enters Shield for Champion Bumper
AIDAN O'BRIEN could have his first Cheltenham Festival runner since the mighty Istabraq was pulled up in the 2002 Champion Hurdle after the training great entered Shield in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
O'Brien ran Shield and Egyptian Warrior at Punchestown seven days ago, his first jumps runners for more than eight years, and has opted solely for Shield, who beat his stablemate by one place in fourth.
He is not the only Flat trainer to target the bumper as Mark Johnston (Willpower) and George Baker (I'm Fraam Govan) also have contenders in the 51-strong entry.
Irish-trained horses have won 15 of the 20 runnings of the race and a typically strong challenge features big money buy Golantilla and five - Briar Hill, Clondaw Court, Moyle Park, Sizing Tennessee and Union Dues - from race-specialist Willie Mullins.
The home team is headed by a number of exciting debut winners including Jeremy Scott's Empiracle, recent Wetherby victor Diamond King and Milo Man, who scored by 25 lengths at Taunton on February 7.
Milo Man's trainer Evan Williams said: "We had to enter Milo Man because he obviously won so well at Taunton and has come out of the race incredibly well.
"I'm not going to say he will definitely run because we would want to see some cut in the ground but we are training him for the race and we will have to see what the weather does between now and then.
"He is a horse I have the utmost confidence in and I think he is a very nice horse but whether he is a bumper horse, I don't know. Whatever he does, as long as he is a lucky horse, he could win a very nice race one day."
The final festival entries have now been revealed with Quevega, Une Artiste and Kentford Grey Lady in a list of 36 for the Mares' Hurdle and last year's one-two Salsify and Chapoturgeon among 39 contenders for the Foxhunter Chase.
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