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If there's a distinct feeling of Hamlet without the prince regarding Istabraq's absence from today's £110,000 Shell Champion Hurdle, then take consolation from the fact that the race is now a betting medium. And then take further consolation from Stage Affair's presence in the field.

Dermot Weld's novice went to the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle, being touted as the only possible danger to Istabraq after his ultra-impressive second in the AIG but ultimately disappointed in fifth.

Weld admitted as much yesterday but stressed: 'He is, after all, a novice and it probably really wasn't a bad run. He knocked a stifle early on in the race and was stiff and sore afterwards but he's in good shape now.'

The Curragh trainer's gamble in bypassing Tuesday's novice race in the hope of faster ground has paid off and Stage Affair's flat record entitles him to really quicken on this surface.

That ability to thrive on quick ground cannot be guaranteed for Britain's top-rated hurdler Dato Star, nor indeed the Ladbroke winner, Mantles Prince, who has had injury problems in the past. Mister Morose would like further to race as could the Champion Hurdle third, Blue Royal.

In theory, that leaves She's Our Mare as a very real danger but good as she is, Stage Affair has a clear chance of rising to the very highest class next year and is the pick.

The other Grade One race is the David Austin Chase, which features four British raiders in an ultra-competitive race and maybe one of them, the Kim Muir winner, Honey Mount, could be the winning solution.

The run of form enjoyed by Ted Walsh's horses has been well documented and his Total Success should be okay on the ground in the two-mile handicap chase and Make My Day has a reasonable chance in the threemile handicap hurdle.