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Christmas Hurdle attracts ten

Fri 20th Dec 2019, 14:50

Fusil Raffles
© Photo Healy Racing

Fusil Raffles is one of three potential runners for Nicky Henderson after a total of 10 entries were made for the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.

The Seven Barrows handler has saddled a record eight previous winners of the Grade One contest, including each of the last two in Buveur D’Air and Verdana Blue.

Verdana Blue could return to defend her crown, having inflicted a shock defeat on stablemate Buveur D’Air last season.

However, Henderson’s first string appears to be Fusil Raffles, who rounded off his juvenile campaign with a Grade One success at Punchestown in the spring — and made a successful reappearance in last month’s Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.

The third Henderson entrant is JP McManus-owned mare Epatante, who could hardly have been more impressive on her first start of the campaign at Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy meeting.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy and Dan Skelton’s Ch’tibello finished second and third respectively in last weekend’s International Hurdle at Cheltenham and could renew rivalry.

The other contenders are Colin Tizzard’s International Hurdle seventh Elixir De Nutz, the Paul Nicholls-trained Getaway Trump, Fergal O’Brien’s new recruit Quick Grabim, Evan Williams’ Silver Streak and Australian raider Big Blue.

Top-level honours are also up for grabs in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

Nicholls has entered Danny Whizzbang and Master Tommytucker, while Black Op appears a leading contender for the Tom George team and Tizzard could saddle the high-class Slate House.

Henderson’s Angels Breath also appears among nine contenders, but is almost certain to miss out after suffering an injury in victory at Ascot on Friday.