Eustace tops Champion field

Hardy Eustace will face 17 rivals as he bids for a third Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle success at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

Hardy Eustace will face 17 rivals as he bids for a third Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle success at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

Dessie Hughes’ nine-year-old will be trying to bounce back from a disappointing run last time and become only the sixth horse to land the race three times, following on from Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq.

Only the Len Lungo-trained novice Rasharrow was taken out of the race at the final declaration stage and it is ante-post favourite Brave Inca who leads the challenge to Hardy Eustace.

Colm Murphy’s charge will be one of five Irish raiders as the Jessica Harrington-trained Macs Joy, John Queally’s Al Eile and Tom Mullins’ Asian Maze also line up.

The home-trained defence will be led by Howard Johnson's Arcalis, an impressive winner of the ``Fighting Fifth'' Hurdle at Newcastle and last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle victor.

Kingwell Hurdle winner Briareus, supplemented to the race at a cost of £17,000, will represent Andrew Balding while Nicky Richards will be double-handed with Faasel and The French Furze.

Richard Guest runs Admiral while last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Penzance, Bula Hurdle second Intersky Falcon and Wincanton runner-up Royal Shakespeare all take their chances.

Outsiders Kawagino and Leo’s Luckyman complete the British-trained contenders with German handler Christian Von Der Recke running Fiepes Shuffle.

Astonville and Turnium, who finished second-last and last respectively in last year’s Champion Hurdle, will represent French handler Francois Cottin.

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