Sharjah injury blow as big guns confirmed for Cheltenham feature races

Sharjah will not make the line-up for the upcoming Champion Hurdle.Sharjah will not make the line-up for the upcoming Champion Hurdle.

Sharjah is a notable absentee from the Champion Hurdle

Sharjah, runner-up in the Champion Hurdle for the past two seasons, was the most notable absentee from the latest declaration stage for the top events at Cheltenham. Trainer Willie Mullins reports that the gelding has had a minor setback and will now be aimed at Punchestown. All of the other major players in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers Hurdle and Ryanair Chase have stood their ground.

Only fourteen remain in Champion Hurdle

The withdrawal of Sharjah has further strengthened the position of odds-on favourite Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle. The unbeaten mare will face a maximum 13 opponents, including 2020 winner Epatante, the only remaining representative for the Nicky Henderson stable. The Mullins-trained Appreciate It is now a solid second favourite while Gordon Elliott has left in Teahupoo and Zanahiyr.

As expected, Allaho was withdrawn from the Queen Mother Champion Chase but still holds a Gold Cup entry. Shishkin and Energumene are on course for a rematch after their epic battle in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Chacun Pour Soi got his season back on track at Leopardstown last weekend and also features among the 18 Champion Chase declarations. Previous winners Put The Kettle On and Politologue and the talented Envoi Allen are among the more noteworthy outsiders.

26 horses remain in contention for the Ryanair Chase, remarkably nine of them trained by Willie Mullins. Besides odds-on favourite and reigning champion Allaho, his other entries include Asterion Forlonge, Janidil and King George VI Chase winner Tornado Flyer. The best of the home team appear to be Saint Calvados and Shan Blue, trained by Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton respectively.

Champ withdrawn from Cheltenham Gold Cup field

Any prospect of Nicky Henderson’s Champ going back over fences for the Gold Cup have been removed with the ten-year-old fully committed to the Stayers Hurdle. All of the leading stayers feature among the 26 entries including the last three winners; Paisley Park, Lisnagar Oscar and Flooring Porter. Klassical Dream remains in contention despite suffering a shock defeat at Gowran Park last month.

25 horses remain in the Cheltenham Gold Cup including the first three home last season. Henry De Bromhead’s Minella Indo and A Plus Tard will line up alongside dual winner Al Boum Photo. Mullins has declared six horses including Asterion Forlonge and Tornado Flyer. Gordon Elliott has five remaining entries, led by Savills Chase winner Galvin and Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated. Perhaps his most intriguing entry is the mare Mount Ida, thought more likely to tackle the Mares’ Chase on her way to the Aintree Grand National.

Protektorat leads the British defence for Dan Skelton, along with Henderson’s Chantry Bridge and the Venetia Williams-trained Royal Pagaille. Lucinda Russell has left in her leading novice chaser Ahoy Senor who put up his best display of jumping to date at Wetherby last time out. His most likely objective is the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase but the Scottish trainer is keeping her options open.

Henry De Bromhead’s Telmesomethinggirl remains on course for a repeat success in the Mares’ Hurdle. Her biggest threat is inevitably likely to come from the Mullins’ entries, eight of them in total. They include former Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory and the consistent Stormy Ireland. Other key entries include Royal Kahala and the winners of the two big staying handicaps last season, Heaven Help Us and Mrs Milner.