Preview of Tuesday's Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival

Annie Power ridden by Ruby Walsh wins Arctic Fire ridden by Ruby Walsh wins The Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Champion Hurdle during da
Image: Annie Power took over as Willie Mullins' No 1 choice after Faugheen was injured

Faugheen may be out of the Champion Hurdle but his absence leaves Tuesday's Cheltenham Festival highlight looking wide open.

Last year's winner would have been a short-priced favourite to repeat his impressive success 12 months ago, but a minor injury means a whole new set of contenders for the hurdling blue riband as well as a few old favourites gunning for glory again.

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The Sky Bet Cheltenham preview evening panel discuss Tuesday's feature race - the Champion Hurdle

Here's our A-Z - strictly C-Z and then A - guide to the runners and riders for the two-mile hurdling championship.

Camping Ground, ridden by Leighton Aspell, races clear to win the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham
Image: Camping Ground won the Relkeel Hurdle but all his best form is over longer trops

CAMPING GROUND (Jockey: Leighton Aspell)

Recent form: 14-U15

Well tipped up in recent weeks during 'Preview Night season' but the Dorset raider has only run once over two miles since his arrival in the country from France in the summer of 2014. He will almost certainly make the running and could be of interest if the race turns into a real slog - his last run was over three miles behind the classy Thistlecrack, when he patently failed to see out the trip. Rating: 5/10.

Hargam just holds the narrow lead as he, Old Guard and Sempre Medici take the final flight in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Image: Hargam (left) has struggled to win recently and might need much quicker ground

HARGAM (Jockey: Mark Walsh)

Also See:

Recent form: 36-433

Put in his place by Peace And Co in last year's Triumph Hurdle and has been beaten by Old Guard and Faugheen this season. Hard to see him winning but connections have to be feared and he could well still be there fighting as they come to the last. Chance would definitely be improved by good ground. Rating: 6/10

Identity Thief, rdiden by Bryan Cooper, jumps the last to win the  StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Image: Identity Thief's form is just below top class but there could be more improvement to come from him

IDENTITY THIEF (Jockey: Bryan Cooper)

Recent form: 2-3112

Claimed a first Grade 1 win in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, out-battling Top Notch, but has since been beaten by Nichols Canyon and, although he is prominent in the market, the Henry de Bromhead runner looks too short, even in a more open race than it once looked. Rating: 6/10

Lil Rockerfeller
Image: Lil Rockerfeller was supplemented for the Champion for a hefty £20,000 - each-way chance

LIL ROCKERFELLER (Jockey: Trevor Whelan)

Recent form: 331231

*Spoiler Alert* This might be one of my favourite horses in training. If the race is to be won on sheer gameness, this is your horse. I'd have rather seen him running in the Coral Cup later in the week, but you can't blame connections for having a go at the big prize - it cost them £20,000 to enter - with Faugheen out of the way. I might just shed a tear or two if he storms up the hill to win, and that is not impossible. Rating: 8/10

My Tent Or Yours (left) works with Hargam
Image: My Tent Or Yours (left) works with Hargam but has not run in a race since April 2014

MY TENT OR YOURS (Jockey: Barry Geraghty)

Recent form: 11123/

Finished second behind Jezki in the 2014 Champion Hurdle, beating The New One among others, but the big problem is his run at Ayr, a month after that race, was his most recent. Asking a horse to win a Champion Hurdle after more than 700 days off the track is an almost impossible task, and he is way too short in the market for me, but Nicky Henderson wouldn't risk him if he wasn't ready. Rating: 3/10

Nichols Canyon and David Mullins wing the last to win the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
Image: Nichols Canyon was on a roll until running a below-par race behind Faugheen in January

NICHOLS CANYON (Jockey: Paul Townend)

Recent form: 1-1113

The Mullins second string had been on an upward curve for most of the last 18 months until being thrashed by Faugheen last time out, having become the first horse to beat 'The Machine' in November 2015. If you excuse that January run, he has to have a chance, but there is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that he wants more of a trip, as when impressive at Aintree over two-and-a-half miles last April. Rating: 7/10

Old Guard gets the better of Sempre Medici and Hargam in a thrilling finish to the stanjames.com International Hurdle.
Image: Old Guard loves Cheltenham but there are concerns over his 'dire' workout at Ditcheat

OLD GUARD (Jockey: Nick Scholfield)

Recent form: 3-1114

Declared a non-runner by trainer Paul Nicholls on Sunday night with 'soreness'.

Peace and Co, ridden by Daryl Jacob, jumps the last to win the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster Racecourse, Doncaster.
Image: Peace and Co starred as a juvenile but has regressed since his Triumph Hurdle win

PEACE AND CO (Jockey: Nico de Boinville)

Recent form: 111-63

So talented last season, when winning the Triumph as part of a Henderson 1-2-3, and it is hard to explain just what has gone wrong since. Pulled like a train on his seasonal debut, finishing a tailed off last behind Old Guard, and was then beaten in a small field at Sandown. Has had work done on his breathing since, but remains one to avoid. Rating: 2/10

Ruby Walsh and  Sempre Medici teamed up for victory in The Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle.
Image: Sempre Medici needs plenty more rain to have a chance

SEMPRE MEDICI (Jockey: David Mullins)

Recent form: 1-4211

Has taken a couple of lower grade races since his defeat by Old Guard at Cheltenham last December, but both came on heavy ground and with the weather set fair until start time on Tuesday, he is clearly the Mullins third-string and I'd rate him unlikely to beat either of his two stablemates. Rating: 3/10

Barry Geraghty on Sign of Victory winning the William Handicap Hurdle at Ascot
Image: Sign Of A Victory (second right) has to improve a great deal

SIGN OF A VICTORY (Jockey: Andrew Tinkler)

Recent form: 442-45

Looked a high-class handicapper a couple of years, but lost his way since being thrown into graded races, with his only win since November 2014 coming in an all-weather flat maiden at Wolverhampton. Likely to go off a three-figure price and unlikely to be involved in the finish unless the ground comes up quick. Rating: 1/10

The New One wins the williamhill.com Hurdle at Kempton
Image: Can The New One go two places better than 2014 and four better than last year?

THE NEW ONE (Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies)

Recent form: 15-121

A Cheltenham Festival favourite but his best chance of winning a Champion Hurdle might have already been and gone, when a fast finishing third behind Jezki in 2014. Fifth behind Faugheen last year, but this race will take a lot less winning now that rival is out injured. Likely to be staying on up the hill, but will his challenge come too late again? Wouldn't mind the ground getting faster. Rating: 9/10

Irving Top Notch
Image: Top Notch bounced back to form at Kelso but is another who would prefer very soft ground

TOP NOTCH (Jockey: Daryl Jacob)

Recent form: 2-2251

Bounced back to form to win the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso last time out, but that victory came on heavy ground and he would need some rain to fall to improve his chances. That seems unlikely, according to the forecast, and he might have to settle for minor place money. Rating: 4/10

Ruby Walsh falls from Annie Power at the last when clear in The OLBG Mare' Hurdle Race
Image: Ruby Walsh will hope there is no repeat of Annie Power's last flight fall in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle in 2015

ANNIE POWER (Jockey: Ruby Walsh)

Recent form: 1F-11

Beautiful mare, who has been rerouted to the Champion Hurdle in the absence of stable companion Faugheen. Has suffered defeat at the last two Festivals, but she would have won last year but for falling when bounding clear at the last hurdle. She probably needs a little further than two miles, but that shouldn't matter too much in a race that is likely to be run to suit a stayer. The seven pound mares allowance she relieves just adds to the confidence in her chances. Rating: 10/10.

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David Craig and Dale Tempest from Sky Bet look ahead to day one at Cheltenham

VERDICT: 

Plans to give 10/10 to each-way hope Old Guard went out of the window on Saturday thanks to Paul Nicholls' extremely downbeat verdict over his most recent piece of work and then his declaration as a non-runner.

In his absence we reluctantly switch allegiances to the likely favourite ANNIE POWER. The mare's allowance of seven pounds could prove vital in a race that might not take too much winning, and she gets the vote ahead of The New One and another supplementary entry Lil Rockerfeller, both of whom are likely to be staying on strongly as the race heats up coming for home.

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