Altior© Photo Healy Racing
Current title holder Altior is one of 22 entries in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on March 13.
While last season was all a bit of a rush for Nicky Henderson’s stable star, this term has gone according to plan with a victory over Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek and a cruise to another success in the Desert Orchid Chase.
Unbeaten in 16 outings over obstacles, Altior is looking to provide Henderson with a sixth win in the race — which would take him level with current record holder Tom Dreaper.
Of the 22, a total of 10 are trained in Ireland — with Willie Mullins responsible for last year’s runner-up Min, previous Festival winner Un De Sceaux, last year’s Arkle winner Footpad and Great Field.
Fox Norton, Politologue, Simply Ned, Saint Calvados, Sceau Royal and Ozzie The Oscar are among the rest.
Also entered is Phil Kirby’s mare Lady Buttons, who has improved in leaps and bounds this season — culminating with an easy victory at Doncaster last time out.
“Lady Buttons has come out of Doncaster in good form,” said Kirby.
“We were delighted with her performance, and this season she has just kept on improving.
“She has always been a horse we have held in high regard. She had a couple of niggles earlier on in her career — but the last couple of seasons have been excellent, and she has progressed with every run.
“We have entered her in the Champion Chase. We are still to make a decision as to where she runs next, because there are not a whole load of options at two miles for mares.
“It was pleasing at Doncaster that she demonstrated she stays further.”