Henderson has a nap-hand in opening day's feature race

Trainer Nicky Henderson has five of the 19 entries for the £450,000 Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle at next week's Cheltenham Festival.

Thursday, 5th March 2020, 1:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th March 2020, 1:56 pm
All systems go for Cheltenham next week

The countdown to The Festival™ presented by Magners intensifies with the six-day confirmations for all seven races on day one of the meeting.

Henderson accounts for five of the 19 entries in the feature race. His team is led by Unibet's 3/1 favourite Epatante, who is bidding to become the fifth mare to win the two-mile hurdling championship, and last year's Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle victor Pentland Hills.

Henderson is also set to run Grade 2 Unibet International Hurdle victor Call Me Lord, Fussil Raffles and Verdana Blue, as he seeks an unprecedented eighth victory in the race.

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The Irish challenge is headed by Cilaos Emery (Willie Mullins IRE), who has been supplemented at a cost of £22,500 after successfully reverting to hurdles at Gowran Park last month.

Darver Star was third in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December and made a promising transition to open company when going down by a half-length in the G1 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on 1 February.

Trainer Gavin Cromwell, who landed the Unibet Champion Hurdle in 2019 with 16/1 chance Espoir D'Allen, said: "Darver Star is on course for the Unibet Champion Hurdle. He had a racecourse gallop at Leopardstown on Monday and I am very pleased with him going into the race.

"It looks wide open and I think Cheltenham will suit him. He is the same sort of price as Espoir D'Allen was last year.

"He stays, travels and jumps well. I think he will be staying on up the hill strongly and hopefully he has a live chance."