State Man to face seven rivals in Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham

There was no late surprise among the final list of eight runners in Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle, with Willie Mullins opting to keep hot favourite State Man and Lossiemouth apart.

In the disappointing absence of the reigning champion Constitution Hill, last year’s runner-up State Man will be prohibitive odds to provide the Festival’s most successful trainer with a fifth victory in the feature event on day one of the showpiece meeting.

There were calls for his stablemate Lossiemouth to take on the boys following her scintillating display on Festival Trials day at Cheltenham in late January, but as expected she will instead line up as a short-priced market leader in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.

State Man will still be joined by a fellow Mullins runner in the Champion Hurdle though, in the form of Zarak The Brave, while Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point and Lorna Fowler’s Colonel Mustard also represent Ireland.

Constitution Hill’s trainer Nicky Henderson will instead have to rely on the supplemented Betfair Hurdle winner Iberico Lord and talented mare Luccia, with Hughie Morrison’s admirable veteran Not So Sleepy and Nemean Lion from Kerry Lee’s yard completing the line-up.

Lossiemouth is one of four Mullins runners in the Mares’ Hurdle, with Ashroe Diamond, Echoes In Rain and Gala Marceau giving him an enviable hand.

Love Envoi (Harry Fry) and Marie’s Rock (Henderson) look the best of the British in an 11-strong field.

The curtain-raising Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is fiercely competitive, with the Mullins-trained pair of Mystical Power and Tullyhill joined at the head of the market by Elliott’s Firefox.

Henry de Bromhead has opted to run Slade Steel in the Supreme rather than Wednesday’s Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle, while Jeriko Du Reponet puts his unbeaten record on the line for Henderson.

Gaelic Warrior, Il Etait Temps and Hunters Yarn all run for Mullins in the My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy, with Elliott’s Found A Fifty and De Bromhead’s Quilixios also in contention.

Eldorado Allen (Joe Tizzard) heads a 23-strong line-up for the Ultima Handicap Chase, while Liari (Paul Nicholls) and Ndaawi (Elliott) top the weights for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, which has attracted a maximum field of 22 plus two reserves.

Only seven runners have been declared for the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Chase, with Corbetts Cross and Embassy Gardens – trained by Emmet and Willie Mullins respectively – disputing favouritism.

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