Five of first six home in last year's World Hurdle have all been entered for this year's race
By Will Hayler
Last Updated: 21/01/16 1:05pm
Five of the first six home in last year's World Hurdle figure among the 48 horses entered for this year's renewal.
Entries for the £300,000 contest include last year's winner Cole Harden (Warren Greatrex), runner-up Saphir Du Rheu (Paul Nicholls), fourth At Fishers Cross (Rebecca Curtis), fifth Whisper (Nicky Henderson) and sixth Un Temps Pour Tout (David Pipe).
The 2014 hero More Of That (Jonjo O'Neill) has also been given an entry, although he is expected to line up instead over fences in the RSA Chase.
Heading Sky Bet's ante-post market at 2/1 for the as-yet-still-unsponsored World Hurdle is Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard), who has been registered two impressive victories on his most recent starts.
He got the better of Deputy Dan (Oliver Sherwood) and Cole Harden in the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on November 28 before moving on to Ascot on December 19, when he was the eight-length winner of the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.
Another horse to have made an impact in Graded company this season is Camping Ground (Robert Walford), who was the impressive 11-length winner of the Grade Two Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle over an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, with Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King) second and Cole Harden third.
The ex-French six-year-old won five times in his native country; a chase, three hurdles and a Flat race. His only previous British victory from three starts came under top-weight in a Warwick handicap chase over an extended two and a half miles.
Dorset-based trainer Robert Walford, who has yet to saddle a winner at The Festival but partnered the 2000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase victor Honey Mount, said on Thursday: "Camping Ground has been very good since his win on New Year's Day and is in great form.
"All being well, he will now go for galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham at the end of the month (January 30) and then head on to The Festival.
"Leighton Aspell rang me after he won the Relkeel and said we should also enter him in the Champion Hurdle - he knows pretty well what he is on about so we did. If it came up heavy, he could maybe go for the Champion Hurdle but in my mind he is really a stayer.
Thistlecrack heads Sky Bet's market for the World Hurdle at 2/1 following the entry announcement.Annie Power follows at 5/1 and the firm currently offer a non-runner no bet proviso on the race, so no worries there for punters if Willie Mullins' charge heads to Mares' Hurdle instead.The same can be said of 2014 winner More Of That, a 10/1 shot.Camping Ground, Cole Harden, Nichols Canyon and Vroum Vroum Mag are all priced up at 8/1.Click here for all the latest odds.
"Camping Ground hasn't actually won over three miles yet but was going away on heavy ground when he won the Relkeel, so I don't see the step up in trip being a problem. I would be surprised if he didn't stay three miles. Better ground should not be a problem as he has won on good ground on the Flat."
A record Irish-trained entry of 18 includes Annie Power (Willie Mullins), runner-up to More Of That in 2014 and a faller at the final flight when looking assured of victory in the 2015 OLBG Mares' Hurdle, for which she is also entered.
Willie Mullins, Ireland's champion Jump trainer who has yet to win the World Hurdle, is also responsible for five more entries. They include another mare, Vroum Vroum Mag, a multiple graded winner over fences who was successful on her return to hurdles at Clonmel last month, plus Briar Hill, Stan James Champion Hurdle hope Nichols Canyon, Renneti and Simenon.
Also among the Irish-trained entries are Prince Of Scars (Gordon Elliott) and Alpha Des Obeaux (Mouse Morris), first and second respectively in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 28, plus Martello Tower (Mags Mullins), third in the same race and winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at The Festival in 2015.
Other eyecatching entries include the 2013 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth (Nicky Henderson) and dual King George VI Chase hero Silviniaco Conti (Paul Nicholls).
Among those not entered were Dermot Weld's Windsor Park and the Paul Nicholls-trained Irving, who were also missing from the Champion Hurdle entries 24 hours earlier.