The Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle has attracted a top quality entry of 10, including the 2007 winner Blazing Bailey, who was second to Inglis Drever in the three-mile contest 12 months ago, and the current ante-post favourite, Punchestowns, for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, who followed up victory under top-weight in the Cotswold Style Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at The Open in November with an 11-length success in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot the following month.
Howard Johnson may bid for back-to-back victories in the Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle with the 2005 Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle winner No Refuge, while Big Buck’s could return to Cheltenham following a good victory in the Unicoin Homes Handicap Hurdle, where he conceded weight to all of his 11 rivals, including the dual Grade Two scorer Tazbar. Grade One winner Lough Derg could make a quick reappearance after defying top-weight to land the Grade Two Holloway’s Hurdle at Ascot on January 17. The David Pipe-trained nine-year-old had previously posted another game display when rallying to beat No Refuge in the Steel Plate And Sections Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Trainer Philip Hobbs is hoping that the talented Fair Along can book his place in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle with a good run. The seven-year-old has enjoyed a profitable campaign over to the smaller obstacles at Cheltenham this season, following up a good second in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars “Help For Heroes” Handicap Hurdle at The Showcase in October with victory in the Listed Cleanevent Handicap Hurdle at The Open the following month. On his latest appearance at the Boylesports International on December 12, Fair Along produced another front-running display to take the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle under top weight, beating Don’t Push It by six lengths.
The entry is completed by the 2007 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup third Turpin Green and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained pair of Amber Brook and Pettifour, who was successful in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April.