Hurricane Fly stands his ground as one of 22 horses left in the field for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the latest confirmation stage.

The 2011 winner is now a hot favourite to regain his title after an unbeaten season and he is one of three entries remaining for Willie Mullins along with Thousand Stars and Zaidpour.

There were no surprises among the defections from the feature event on the opening day of next month's Cheltenham Festival, although Nicky Henderson's team has shrunk to four headed by former winner Binocular and the smart Grandouet.

His 2011 third Oscar Whisky is kept in the event as an option along with the 2010 runner-up Khyber Kim, who has returned to Seven Barrows after a spell with Nigel Twiston-Davies, but has not appeared yet this season.

Henderson lost his great hope Darlan in a fall last week, and has removed General Miller, Cash And Go and former hero Punjabi from the race.

Last year's winner Rock On Ruby is in contention, while others of interest to remain in the race are the Donald McCain trio of Cinders And Ashes, Overturn and Peddlers Cross.

Zarkandar is the only possible runner for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.