Irish-trained horses make up more than half of the 28 entries for this year’s Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Irish have claimed the last three renewals of the two-mile feature with Colm Murphy’s Brave Inca taking home the prize last year while the Dessie Hughes-trained Hardy Eustace was successful in 2004 and 2005.
Those two, as well as last year’s second Macs Joy, all feature in the 17 Irish entries along with Noel Meade’s strong team of Harchibald, Christmas Hurdle victor Jazz Messenger, Iktitaf and Sweet Wake.
Other contenders from Ireland include Tom Mullins’ Asian Maze, the Grade One-winning novice Hide The Evidence, Newmill and Feathard Lady, who is unbeaten in seven starts but has not been seen out since winning the 2005 Christmas Hurdle.
Detroit City, who is trained by Philip Hobbs, leads the home defence and currently heads the betting after taking both the Greatwood Hurdle and Boylesports.com International so far this season.
If he can also win the Champion Hurdle, Detroit City would collect a £200,000 (€304,000) bonus provided by Boylesports.
Acambo, Noble Request, Desert Quest and Straw Bear are among the remainder of the British-trained entries.
Edward Gillespie, Cheltenham’s managing director, said: “It is a golden era for hurdling and the 2007 Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle entries are bursting with quality.
“We have seen Irish-trained 1-2-3s for the past two years but the 2006 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Detroit City has emerged as a live contender to keep the title at home for the first time since 2003, when Rooster Booster scored for the same connections.”