Al Ferof: a top-priced 14-1 for the Queen Mother Champion ChasePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Exciting novice Al Ferof among Nicholls quartet
TRAINER Paul Nicholls could have four runners in the Sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, with exciting novice Al Ferof spearheading a strong entry form Britain's champion trainer.
Nicholls could also run Kauto Stone, Hold Fast and Ghizao as he bids for a fifth Champion Chase success following the victories of Call Equiname (1999), Azertyuiop (2004) and Master Minded (2008 & 2009).
Al Ferof, who is unbeaten in two starts over fences since his Supreme Novices'Hurdle success at last year's Cheltenham Festival, is a top-priced 14-1 chance with Paddy Power for the 2m contest.
Master Minded, who landed back-to-back victories in 2008 and 2009, was missing from the entries after he picked up a tendon injury during the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26.
Paul Nicholls: holds four entriesPICTURE: Getty Images
Peddlers Cross, trained by Donald McCain, was another novice to feature among the 19 entries on Thursday.
Beaten 16 lengths by the Nicky Henderson-trained Sprinter Sacre - now as short as 2-1 for the Arkle - at Kempton in December, Peddlers Cross is available at 12-1 with William Hill for the Champion Chase.
Last year's winner Sizing Europe, who is a general 5-2 market leader for this year's contest, was also among the entries.
Big Zeb, who could only manage second in last season's race after his impressive victory a year earlier, was also included in the field and can be backed at 5-1 with Paddy Power.
Lucy Rhodes, spokeswoman for William Hill, said: "With Sizing Europe and Big Zeb heading the betting the Irish hold a strong hand for the Champion Chase hat-trick, however, the decision to enter exciting novice Al Ferof should not be underestimated."