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Thrilling Champion Chase clash one step closer after Defi taken out of Ryanair

By Harry Allwood@H_Allwood1
Wed 12 Feb 2020

Click here to view the latest ante-post odds for all races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

The prospect of a mouthwatering clash between Defi Du Seuil, Altior and Chacun Pour Soi in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase looks more assured than ever after Philip Hobbs’ superstar was taken out of the Ryanair Chase at the latest forfeit stage on Wednesday.

The six-time Grade One winner’s sole entry is now in the two-mile feature on day two of the Cheltenham Festival which the dual winner of the race, Altior, is being aimed at following his victory at Newbury this month.

Chacun Pour Soi still holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase, but is more likely to run in the Champion Chase after defeating stablemate Min in the Dublin Chase last time out.

Altior heads the betting at a general 2-1, with Defi Du Seuil a best-priced 9-4, and Chacun Pour Soi a shade bigger at a general 5-2. The rest of the 18 remaining are 14-1 or bigger.

One horse who will not be taking on the trio - who have won 18 Grade Ones between them - is Cyrname who has been scratched from the Champion Chase, but remains entered in the Ryanair Chase.

Defending champions Al Boum Photo, Frodon, Paisley Park and Roksana are also among a host of stars on course for the Magners Cheltenham Festival following the latest scratchings deadline for the six non-novice Grade One races.

Al Boum Photo provided Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins with a first success in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2019 and the eight-year-old heads 20 acceptors for the feature race on day four of The Festival, Friday, 13 March.

His rivals in chasing's blue riband are set to be headed by Santini, who comfortably accounted for Bristol De Mai in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day.

Delta Work finished third in the RSA Novices' Chase at The Festival in 2019, but the seven-year-old will return to Cheltenham on the back of two Grade One victories at Leopardstown this term.

The 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River will be bidding to emulate the mighty Kauto Star and become only the second horse to regain the chasing crown.

Native River looked as good as ever in the Denman Chase this month

Tizzard has also left in Betfair Chase winner Lostintranslation, while Kauto Star's trainer Paul Nicholls has engaged dual Ladbrokes King George VI Chase victor Clan Des Obeaux as he seeks a record-equalling fifth success in the race.

Frodon provided one of the moments of last year's Festival when gamely taking the Ryanair Chase under Bryony Frost and the Paul Nicholls-trained chaser features among 29 horses remaining in the two-mile, five-furlong contest on day three, Thursday, 12 March.

Other horses going forward include Frodon's stable-companion Cyrname, the highest-rated chaser in Britain, as well as A Plus Tard and Min, who have both scored at Grade One level in Ireland this season.

J P McManus is seeking a fourth consecutive Unibet Champion Hurdle (31 acceptors) and the legendary Irish owner is responsible for this year's favourite Epatante, who is 3-1 with Unibet following a decisive victory in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park in December. McManus is the most successful owner of all time in the race with eight wins.

Impressive Christmas Hurdle winner Epatante heads the betting in the Champion Hurdle

Her trainer Nicky Henderson has also left in last year's Triumph Hurdle victor Pentland Hills, Grade One scorer Fusil Raffles, Call Me Lord, successful in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, and top mare Verdana Blue as he chases an eighth win in the feature contest on day one, Tuesday, 10 March.

Four mares have triumphed in the Unibet Champion Hurdle. In addition to Epatante and Verdana Blue, a strong female challenge this year could feature Irish Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle and 11-time Grade One winner Apple's Jade.

Honeysuckle and Apple's Jade also feature among 27 acceptors for the other non-novice championship race on day one of the Festival, the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle. Willie Mullins has dominated the roll of honour for the two and a half-mile contest with nine victories and his eight potential challengers this year include the 2018 winner Benie des Dieux, Stormy Ireland and Laurina, an 18-length winner at The Festival two years ago.

Roksana became only the second British-trained horse to win the Close Brothers' Mares Hurdle last year and the Dan Skelton-trained eight-year-old will be aiming to defend her crown, with Lady Buttons also featuring highly among the home team.

Paisley Park lit up The Festival 12 months ago with an impressive display in the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle and Emma Lavelle's stable star returns to The Festival in top form for another crack at the hurdling highlight on Thursday, 12 March.

Challengers to Paisley Park could include Benie des Dieux and the 2018 winner Penhill, who is also trained by Willie Mullins, with Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle scorer Summerville Boy also among 29 horses going forward.

Click here to view the latest ante-post odds for all races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

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