The Nicholls-trained Celestial Halo is the highest rated horse among the 56-strong entry in next weeks Greatwood Hurdle at the Open Meeting at Cheltenham, following his runner-up finish in the Grade One Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle last March. The fantastic contest is the highlight of Sundays excellent card, which is the third and final day of The Open - Friday, November 13, to Sunday, November 15.
Donald McCain and Nick Williams are considering their options ahead of the 100,000 Grade Three Greatwood Hurdle (2.20pm) at The Open on Sunday, November 15, with the trainers eying the lucrative handicap for Whiteoak and James De Vassy, respectively.
Whiteoak landed her greatest triumph in the extended two and a half-mile Grade Two David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at The Festival in 2008, and McCains crack mare could bid for another Cheltenham triumph in the extended two-mile contest.
The six-year-old raced only three times last term. After an eye-catching second to Ashkazar over two miles in the Grade Two Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February, Whiteoak failed to fire and was 12th of 23 behind Punjabi in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at The Festival the following month. A respectable sixth to Solwhit at Aintree in April ended a frustrating campaign.
Nick Williams enjoyed great success with Diamond Harry last term and the Devon handler has another exciting young hurdler on his hands in the shape of James De Vassy. The four-year-old was having only his fourth race when making a winning start to the season in a limited handicap hurdle at Chepstow on October 10. Despite racing from 4lb out of the handicap in the extended two-mile contest, James De Vassy won impressively by four lengths from the smart Classic Swain. Williams is not keen to compete from out of the handicap again and is hoping for a high-profile defection so that the weights will rise.