Melon and Moon Racer in Supreme mix as latest Festival scratchings revealed

Wed 22 Feb 2017

Melon and Moon Racer are among 58 horses still in contention for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle following the scratchings deadline for the major novice events at the Cheltenham Festival.

Willie Mullins saddled three consecutive winners of the traditional Festival curtain-raiser between 2013 and 2015, with Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan all striking gold.

Min was a hot favourite to continue the champion trainer's stranglehold on the race last March, but proved no match for the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior.

Mullins once again houses this year's ante-post favourite, with Melon justifying plenty of hype with an impressive Irish debut at Leopardstown last month.

The Closutton maestro could also call upon the likes of Deloitte Novice Hurdle runner-up Bunk Off Early and unbeaten mare Airlie Beach, but Deloitte winner Bacardys and Augusta Kate were among the 25 horses scratched.

The David Pipe-trained Moon Racer heads the home team for the Supreme. Winner of the Champion Bumper in 2015, the eight-year-old is two from two over hurdles, but has not been seen since scoring at Cheltenham in November.

Henderson's Charli Parcs and Neon Wolf from Harry Fry's stable are other leading contenders.

Many of the above also have the option of running in the following day's Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.

Although 38 horses have been taken out, 80 have stood their ground, including Melon, Bacardys and Neon Wolf.

Ante-post favourite Finian's Oscar, Messire Des Obeaux and Let's Dance are others in the mix.

Gordon Elliott's Death Duty is the star name among 78 going forward for the Albert Bartlett, with West Approach and Wholestone the two leading hopes for Britain.

Only 43 horses have been confirmed for the Triumph Hurdle, including red-hot favourite Defi Du Seuil, Charli Parcs and Mega Fortune.

The Arkle Trophy has cut up to just 23 entries, with Altior very much taking top billing.

Mullins has removed the injured Min, American Tom, Bellshill and Benie Des Dieux, among others, but has left in Royal Caviar and Yorkhill.

Yorkhill headlines 45 horses in the JLT Novices' Chase, with Top Notch, Disko and Politologue among his potential opponents.

Might Bite, Coney Island and Alpha Des Obeaux feature in a list of 39 entries for the RSA Chase, while 41 remain in the National Hunt Chase, including A Genie In Abottle, Champers On Ice and Beware The Bear.

Tom George is weighing up options, including handicaps, for dual course winner Singlefarmpayment.

The seven-year-old was brought down on his latest visit to Cheltenham last month.

George said: "W e've taken him out of the four-miler (National Hunt Chase), so his options now are the Ultima Handicap Chase, the Kim Muir and the RSA.

"The handicaps are so compressed these days that he could be better off in the RSA because he's an improving horse.

"I don't know yet as there's still three weeks and, as we've seen, a lot can happen.We just need to make sure we make the right decision."

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