Seven entries for International Hurdle at Cheltenham
Last Updated: 10/12/13 3:57pm
The New One and Zarkandar lead the International entries
The StanJames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday has attracted just seven entries.
The prestigious Grade Two contest has long been the target for the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained The New One who advertised his Champion Hurdle claims when slamming Rock On Ruby at Kempton on his reappearance.
The winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at last year's Festival is set to have his mettle tested by Zarkandar - who beat The New One over two and a half miles at Aintree in April - but the remainder of the possible runners all have plenty to find on official figures.
The entries include two French trained horses in Albert Hall (who was pulled up in a Kempton handicap on his previous visit to Britain) and Seabreeze d'Ho with the 149 rated Court Minstrel, Hawkhill and Jumps Road completing the possible contenders.
Twiston-Davies' son Sam, jockey of The New One, told At The Races: "I'm really looking forward to it, it's not a big field but it's competitive. He's in good form and it will be nice to get him back on the course again. He was very impressive at Kempton. It was nice how he came out of the race and he's progressed from it since."
The sponsor's spokesman, Rory Jiwani, was also optimistic that the race would live up its billing saying: "This should be a good test of The New One's StanJames Champion Hurdle credentials with Zarkandar defending his crown for the red-hot Paul Nicholls.
"With quick ground forecast for the meeting, Evan Williams' Court Minstrel will hopefully be able to show the form that won him the Scottish Champion Hurdle last season.
"He would have a chance of mixing it with the big two on his best form and the International lives up to its name this year with two entries from France in the form of listed hurdle winners Seabreeze d'Ho and Albert Hall."
Trainer Evan Williams is also hopeful of a big run from Court Minstrel saying: "He has been in flying form since the Greatwood and I thought he ran a really good race under top-weight - I was delighted with him.
"We hoped at the start of the season that he had progressed from last year, but he hasn't and that is what he is. He is in very good form though and his work has been as good as it's ever been.
"If we finish third, I will be very happy and just to be running in a race with the likes of The New One and Zarkandar is brilliant.
"He is impossible to place now because he has been beaten in two handicaps this season and hasn't been dropped a pound. The positives on Saturday are that the ground will be perfect for him, the small field will suit and we are running for a lot of money."
The Ryman Stationery Novices' Chase earlier on the card was also re-opened and that contest has fared better in attracting nine entries with a cracking contest on the cards if the majority take their chance.
Le Bec, Shutthefrontdoor and Sam Winner - first, second and third at The Open here last month - could re-oppose although Emma Lavelle (who trains the former) also has the option of running Gullinbursti.
Oliver Sherwood's highly-rated Many Clouds could take his chance with Buachaill Alainn, Le Reve, O'Faolains Boy and Taigan completing the entry.