Defending champ Honeysuckle heads Champion Hurdle entries

Honeysuckle, who routed her field in the 2021 Champion Hurdle, will return to Prestbury Park to defend her crown and heads a list of 23 entries for this year’s hurdling championship.

In the meantime, she is set to return to Leopardstown next month in search of a third successive Irish Champion Hurdle. Trainer Henry De Bromhead also has last year's Triumph Hurdle victor Quilixios and Aspire Tower in an enviable list of entrants.

The wonderful mare Honeysuckle is an odds-on chance to repeat her feat of last year and maintain her 100 per cent record under Rules. She currently has 13 straight successes to her name, the most recent being in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November.

Leading the likely opposition at Cheltenham is the Nicky Henderson-trained Epatante, the 2020 victor, who was third in last year's renewal.

The eight-year-old mare has made a good start to this campaign with a dead-heat in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and outright victory in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Henderson also has Buveur D'Air, winner in 2017 and 2018.

Sharjah, second to Honeysuckle in 2021 and to Epatante in 2020, is likely to try to go one better after his fourth consecutive win in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

His trainer Willie Mullins has a total of four entries, including Appreciate It, who has not raced since winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at last year's Festival, plus Saint Roi and Echoes In Rain.

Fellow Irish trainer Gordon Elliott has four possibles - Abacadabras, Saint Felicien, Teahupoo and Zanahiyr.

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