Rock On Ruby: could have one more run before CheltenhamPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Big guns all present in Champion Hurdle entries
A VINTAGE renewal of the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival could be on the cards, with the last four winners of the race featuring among the 34 entries made for the Grade 1 on Wednesday.
Last year's winner Rock On Ruby is on target to defend his crown, with trainer Harry Fry intending to give the eight-year-old one more run before the championship contest in March.
He said: "He is all set for a prep run at either Sandown on February 2 [Contenders Hurdle] or at Wincanton on February 16 [Kingwell Hurdle], weather permitting, as I'm not sure what the winter is going to bring next. He is not going to run on heavy ground between now and Cheltenham. If the ground is decent, he will have a prep run but if not, he will have a racecourse gallop instead.
"He is in great form at the moment and his run in the International has brought him on a ton - I am very pleased with him. Noel [Fehily] felt he was on the winner the whole way at Cheltenham. He travelled like the best horse in the race but the lack of a recent run at that level in those conditions counted against him turning in and over the last.
Hurricane Fly: heads Irish entriesPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
"I think he will have had to have improved since last year's Champion Hurdle to win this year's race but he has improved and is much bigger and stronger."
Hurricane Fly, winner of the race in 2011 heads a strong contingent from Ireland, which also features Zaidpour, Thousand Stars and Cause Of Causes, winner of The Ladbroke at Ascot.
Nicky Henderson has a potential battalion for the race, with Kempton's Christmas Hurdle winner Darlan leading eight entries for the trainer.
Binocular, who won the race in 2010, and 2009 winner Punjabi also feature, plus Grandouet, Oscar Whisky, Khyber Kim, Cash And Go and General Miller.
Donald McCain has entered last year's runner-up Overturn, along with Cinders And Ashes and Peddlers Cross, while Countrywide Flame, Zarkandar, Grumeti and Raya Star all feature.