Champion Hurdle-bound Pentland Hills to face Aussie ace on Cheltenham return
Pentland Hills will begin his road back to the Cheltenham Festival against an unusual challenger, with the double Grade 1 winning hurdler set to take on Australian runner Big Blue in Saturday's Unibet International Hurdle.
The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained rival is priced at 33-1 with the sponsors against the strong 11-8 favourite for Nicky Henderson, who is seeking a fourth consecutive success over hurdles at Cheltenham.
Pentland Hills returns to the scene of his Triumph Hurdle win, having then gone on to land a second top-level prize at Aintree for syndicate Owners Group 31. He is an 8-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle in March.
Henderson, who also runs the experienced Call Me Lord, said: "Pentland Hills will run in the International on Saturday and I'm very happy with him and this was the plan. He'll be joined in the race by his stablemate Call Me Lord."
Elsewhere, Tolworth Hurdle winner Elixir De Nutz and Dan Skelton's Ch'tibello, a Cheltenham Festival winner in March, are also in the classy line-up.
Riders Onthe Storm among the 22 for Caspian Caviar Gold Cup
Hot favourite Riders Onthe Storm features among 22 confirmations for Saturday's feature Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Last year's runner-up Cepage became the new topweight with Kalashnikov set to miss the weekend's feature. BetVictor Gold Cup winner Happy Diva and Capeland were also notable absentees.
The withdrawal of those horses has led to Riders Onthe Storm being clipped to 4-1 (from 5). He ran out an impressive winner on his stable debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies at Aintree, with Cepage in second.
Paul Nicholls has won five of the last ten runnings of the race and has two live chances with Secret Investor and Brelan D'As. Secret Investor finished second in a Grade 2 at Down Royal last time and he was shortened from 16-1 into 8-1.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said on Monday afternoon: "It's currently good, good to soft in places, and we're racing on the New course for the first time since May.
"We're forecast rain on Tuesday through till Thursday, which should be about 20mm before racing, then we'll have showers forecast through racing.
"I'd imagine the ground will probably be good to soft for racing on Friday but it could be good in places or soft in places. We shouldn't have any frost."
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