Over 350 entries have been made for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, JCB Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with the Willie Mullins stable responsible for 64 of those.
Mullins has the favourite for three of the four Grade 1 novice hurdles at Cheltenham with Vautour (Supreme), Faugheen (Neptune) and Ivan Grozny (Triumph Hurdle) while Briar Hill is second favourite for the Albert Bartlett Hurdle behind the David Pipe-trained Kings Palace.
In total there are 104 entries for the Neptune, 102 for the Supreme, 81 for the Albert Bartlett and 65 for the Triumph Hurdle.
The Tullow Tank is Paddy Power’s 8-1 favourite for the Supreme and has, according to Fenton, thrived since his eight-length victory in a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Fenton said: “He had an easy 10 days after the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle but he’s back in full work now and really has blossomed.
“He’s been absolutely fine and worked last Saturday morning. He’s very well and I’m very happy with him since.
“I was impressed and very pleased with the Leopardstown run over the way in which he really excelled when he got in a battle and won that quite easily and then went away to the line.
“He’s now on course for the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 9.
“I think the extra two furlongs there will be right up his alley and I’ve always thought that without a doubt it was obvious that he would get two miles and further.”
Despite Fenton’s belief that The Tullow Tank will stay a longer trip, the Supreme remains the conditional aim at the Festival.
The Co Tipperary handler said: “At the moment it’s the two-miler (Supreme) we’re thinking of, but the other race (Neptune) will be under consideration as well.
“The ground will be a factor and we’ll have to play it by ear and see closer to the time.”
Paul Nicholls’ trio is headed by German import Irving.
Nicky Henderson’s nine Supreme entries include Royal Boy and Josses Hill, first and second respectively in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on January 11.
Other possible starters include Greatwood Hurdle winner Dell’ Arca, Ladbroke Hurdle victor Willow’s Saviour and Zamdy Man, who triumphed in the Grade Two Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock Park on January 18.
Apache Stronghold is among the runners engaged in the Neptune and trainer Noel Meade is hoping the six-year-old can make it to Cheltenham despite a setback at Christmas.
“He had a setback after Christmas and it has taken a while to get him back, so won’t be able to get another run into him,” said Meade.
“I won't run him unless I’m 100 per cent happy because there is always Aintree, Fairyhouse or Punchestown, but the plan is to run at Cheltenham if he’s right. He’s a gorgeous a horse and we think he’s right up there with the best around, so hopefully we can get him there.”
Meade is also hopeful of making a mark in the Albert Bartlett with Wounded Warrior.”
In the Triumph Hurdle, multiple champion Flat trainer Aidan O'Brien could be represented by Plinth.
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