Won In The Dark is among a fantastic 47-strong entry for this year’s £100,000 Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle, run over an extended two miles and a furlong on the third and final day of The Open at Cheltenham, Sunday November 16.
The Sabrina Harty-trained four-year-old enjoyed a exceptional first season over hurdles, winning the Grade One Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on Boxing Day before finishing his campaign with an emphatic 10-length victory in the Grade One Champion 4YO Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival at the end of April.
Following the success Irish raider Sizing Europe for Henry de Bromhead last year, a strong challenge of 11 from the Emerald Isle this season also includes the Tom Hogan-trained pair of Silver Jaro, who took the Grade Three Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle at The Festival in March, and recent comprehensive Naas handicap hurdle winner Kirbybroguelantern.
Paul Nolan, who sent over Accordion Etoile to Greatwood Hurdle victory in 2004, has this year entered Grade Two novice hurdle runner-up Cuan Na Grai and Mudslinger, while Eoin Griffin could run Lounaos, who finished fourth in last season’s Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle.
The shrewd Tony Martin stable could also be represented by unexposed Stage Manager, last seen out when a comfortable winner at the Galway Festival in July. The home challenge also looks set to be formidable. Philip Hobbs, who sent out both Rooster Booster (2002) and Detroit City (2006) to victory in the Greatwood Hurdle, could this rely on last season’s Grade One Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle third Snap Tie, who got his season off to a great start when beating Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle winner Katchit in a Kempton conditions hurdle on October 19. The Minehead-based handler has also entered dual Cheltenham scorer Motorway and County Zen.
Outstanding four-year-old Franchoek could also take his chance in the race. The Alan King-trained gelding was successful in the Grade Two Cleanevent Juvenile Novices' Hurdle at The Open last season and went on to Grade One victory at Chepstow before returning to Prestbury Park to win the Grade Two Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices' Hurdle on Festival Trials Day and finish second to Celestial Halo in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival. Besides Franchoek, King has entered King’s Revenge, last year’s Greatwood Hurdle fourth Trouble At Bay, and Squadron, who was a comprehensive 18-length winner of an Aintree four-year-old hurdle on October 26.
The powerful Ditcheat yard of Paul Nicholls could be represented by exciting South African import Rippling Ring, who came home fifth on his second start over timber in the Grade One Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival last season, and Aintree Grade Two Novices’ Hurdle winner Pierrot Lunaire.
Pipe could also run French import Piraya, who won a Grade Three chase at Auteuil in September of last year, Royal Ascot runner-up and Cesarewitch third Mamlook, and Leo’s Lucky Star, who finished third behind Font at the Showcase.
A strong quintet entered by Nicky Henderson includes exciting mare Chomba Womba, who finished third in the Grade Two David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at The Festival, and Grade Two Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle victor Aigle d’Or. The master of Seven Barrows has also entered Punchestowns, unexposed The Polomoche and impressive recent Aintree handicap hurdle winner French Opera.
In-form trainer Nigel Twiston Davies could run Leamington Lad, who triumphed in the Cheltenham Business Club Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at The Showcase, and last year’s Greatwood Hurdle fifth Pigeon Island, who went on to capture a Grade Two novices’ hurdle at Kempton, while Andrew Turnell, who himself is in a rich vein of form, may let last year’s Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices' Hurdle sixth Blue Bajan take his chance.
Other notable entries include the John Quinn-trained pair of Leslingtaylor and Grade Two handicap hurdle winner King’s Quay, 2006 Grade Three Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle third Premier Dane, and the Gary Moore-trained quartet of Wingman, Numide, Mon Michel and I Have Dreamed.