Willie Mullins has confirmed that both Faugheen and Min will miss the Cheltenham Festival after failing to recover from injury. Mullins has dominated the Cheltenham Festival over the last few years but after losing over 60 horses after a dispute with owner Michael O'Leary about training fees, he may find it harder this year.
Ruby Walsh has played down rumours that Yorkhill may revert back to hurdles but with Mullins having a history of keeping the bookies guessing, nothing would surprise me.
If Yorkhill stays over fences then Petit Mouchoir and Vroom Vroom Mag are the main dangers from Ireland, whilst Buveur D'air, Yanworth and Brain Power are the U.K's main hopes.
Third to Altior in the Supreme last year and that form is working out wonderfully. Nicky Henderson has always wondered about stepping up to 2m4f's with this horse, so that suggests Buveur D'air won't be found wanting in the stamina department. Nicky Henderson has said that Buveur D'air wants soft conditions, that's fine with all the rain we are having right now, but if it dries out in the week leading up to Cheltenham then that might be a concern.
Buveur D'air has beat Petit Mouchoir twice and Brain Power once in his career.
I always thought Yanworth would lack the speed to win a Champion Hurdle. If you've followed us on Twitter for long enough then I was certain that Yanworth needed further than 2m's. Alan King was talking about the World Hurdle for this horse at the beginning of the season and after watching him need almost every yard to beat Lil Rockerfeller over 2m4f's at Ascot, I was certain that would end all the talk of Yanworth being a Champion Hurdle contender. BUT the way Yanworth disposed of The New One last time out over 2m's at Kempton suggests that I might be wrong. The way he picked up on a speed track like Kempton had everyone purring. He was super impressive and that makes Yanworth a very interesting horse.
Yanworth comfortably beat The New One in the Christmas Hurdle this season.
Front runner who won the Irish Champion Hurdle this season. Footpad was back in a close second that day and if you're judging him on that form alone then he'll probably come up short here. One excuse I will make for Petit Mouchoir is that he had company for the lead that day and that's probably taken a bit out of him. A very dangerous contender if allowed an easy lead of it up front but I'm not sure his form is strong enough to win a Champion Hurdle.
Buveur D'air has beat Petit Mouchoir twice already. Both times were last season, by a neck at Aintree and by 6l's in the Supreme Novices'.
Brain Power hasn't been the most fluent hurdler at times and that would suggest he's got it all to do to win a Champion Hurdle. It was Barry Geraghty's idea to put cheekpieces on him to help him hurdle more fluently and that's brought about loads of improvement. If you believe what Nicky Henderson has to say then Brain Power is a serious Champion Hurdle contender at the prices. After Buveur D'air won at Sandown on his favoured heavy ground, Nicky Henderson said that Brain Power would've done the same. The only reason Brain Power didn't run that day was because the ground was too soft. A very interesting horse going by what the trainer has said.
Brain Power has finished behind Buveur D'air and Petit Mouchoir in his career.
Winner of three Grade 1's over hurdles. Won the Neptune here last year and Ruby said after that race that Yorkhill would win an Arkle with his mouth open. That suggests chasing has always been on everyones mind and even though Faugheen misses the Festival this year, I'd be surprised if he switches Yorkhill back to hurdles after winning his first two starts over fences. I don't think we'll see Yorkhill line up in the Champion Hurdle because as of today (19th Feb) he's still been schooled over fences at home. However, I wouldn't be surprised as Willie Mullins loves to keep the bookies guessing.