Staying entries result in World record
Updated: Thursday, 17 Jan 2013 20:08
With no Big Buck's to contend with, a record entry of 61 has been received for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday, 14 March.
The absence of Paul Nicholls' superstar, who had won the previous four renewals, means the champion trainer will have to find a new leading stayer among his team of six.
Classy chaser Kauto Stone and Lexus Chase winner Tidal Bay feature among his possible contenders along with Aaim To Prosper, Celestial Halo, Prospect Wells and Wonderful Charm.
Long Walk Hurdle winner Reve De Sivola is there for Nick Williams and Mark Bradstock has entered the novice Coneygree.
Nicky Henderson has Oscar Whisky, Riverside Theatre and Oscara Dara among his seven entries while Willie Mullins has 10, with Quevega given the option although she is reportedly going to bid for a fifth successive win in the OLBG.com David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle.
Thousand Stars and Zaidpour are also in Mullins' team.
Noel Meade's Monksland looks a major player after winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and he is on target for the race and will go straight there.
"All is well with him at the moment and the plan is to run Monksland in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. I am just giving him an easy time - a bit of break - and then we will start building him up for Cheltenham," said Meade.
"We were hopeful he would get the three miles at Leopardstown because he was staying on well in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, but maybe the way the race was run suited us.
"The leader went off at a hell of a gallop and perhaps the favourite followed him sooner than he should have, but Paul (Carberry) was very good on Monksland.
"With Big Buck's out of it, the World Hurdle has opened up. Monksland obviously stays well, but he isn't a slow horse and has the speed to win over two miles.
"The plan is not to run him before Cheltenham and we are hoping there could be a bit more improvement to come from him.
"We have been purposely easy on him, as he is a very clear-winded horse and doesn't take a lot of work to get fit. We are hoping by keeping him fresh, we will be able to prolong his longevity."
Rite Of Passage, Champion Court, Bog Warrior, Cape Tribulation, Peddlers Cross, Dynaste and Grands Crus are also entered.
Alan King has elected to put four of his horses in the race, headed by Smad Place, who was third to Big Buck's in the last World Hurdle, and Walkon, who has finished second in both the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the valuable equivalent at the December meeting.
Lovcen, who beat Fingal Bay in the big novice hurdle at Aintree, has not flourished over fences and could step back.
Bensalem, who won a Grade Three handicap chase at the 2011 Festival, is the least likely participant.
King said: "All options are open at the moment. Smad Place will go for the National Spirit at Fontwell first and I'm not sure about Walkon.
"He will either run in the two-mile-and-five handicap chase at Cheltenham next weekend, or the Cleeve Hurdle - it will probably be the chase.
"Lovcen hates chasing and might go for the Cleeve as it's tough off his handicap mark.
"Bensalem has been off for two years and was due to go for a handicap chase at Haydock this weekend but I doubt it will be on.
"I'd imagine he'd run in one of the handicap chases at the Festival."