The JCB Triumph Hurdle runners will be wittled down from the 91 entries, including 32 from Ireland and four from France. Alan King could saddle his third winner of the race in four years if recent course and distance winner Franchoek can justify current favouritism in the colours of J P McManus. The progressive gelding followed up his Grade One Future Champions Finale Hurdle win at Chepstow over Christmas with two successes at Cheltenham, most recently when impressively racing clear of his rivals in the Grade Two Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices Hurdle on Festival Trials Day on January
The Barbury Castle handler is also represented in the entries for the two mile, one furlong contest by five others, including Squadron, who landed the Fraser Steele Juvenile Novices' Hurdle at Sandown on his hurdling bow, and three-time Flat scorer Emerald Wilderness. Three entries by Paul Nicholls are headed by runaway Newbury juvenile novices hurdle winner Celestial Halo. The trainers quality trio is completed by course and distance winner Five Dream and Pierrot Lunaire, a former Flat performer in France who was narrowly beaten by Doubly Guest on his hurdling debut at Ludlow on January 28.
Nicky Henderson, the winning-most current trainer in the JCB Triumph Hurdle with three successes, has entered exciting novice Binocular, also under the J.P. McManus banner. The French Flat recruit opened his jumps account at Ascot on January 19 when comprehensively beating Norman The Great by eight lengths. His only other entry in the race is the aforementioned Doubly Guest.
The challenging team from Ireland is headed by John Smiths Grand National winning trainer Gordon Elliotts Harper Valley, who hasnt been seen since beating Franchoek by a length and a half in the Boylesports.com Best Odds Juvenile Novices' Hurdle over this course and distance in December, and Sabrina Hartys Won In The Dark, who ran second to Franchoek over this course and distance in November. He was since an impressive Leopardstown Christmas Festival winner in the Grade One Durkan New Homes Juvenile Hurdle and had Willie Mullins Ulster Derby winner
Temlett beaten in sixth on that occasion.