Seven for Nicholls in Greatwood
Zubayr is among seven Paul Nicholls entries as the trainer goes for back-to-back wins in the StanJames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The £100,000 Grade Three contest is the highlight of the third and final day of The Open at Cheltenham on Sunday November 13 and a total of 37 entries have been received for the 2016 renewal.
Champion Nicholls was on the mark last year with Old Guard last term and has seven potential runners this time, including Grade Two scorer Zubayr and All Set To Go, who was runner-up in a valuable handicap hurdle at Haydock in May, as well as last season's Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle victor and runner-up, Diego du Charmil and Romain de Senam.
Philip Hobbs, victorious four times in the Greatwood, has the 2014 scorer Garde La Victoire engaged, as well as the BetVictor Gold Cup, plus Sternrubin,winner of a competitive handicap hurdle at Ascot last season, and the unexposed Ozzie The Oscar, successful on three of his four starts over hurdles.
One horse already on the mark at Cheltenham this season is Sceau Royal, impressive at The Showcase in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle when he had Ben Pauling's Leoncavallo in second, Adrien Du Pont (Paul Nicholls) fourth and Wolf Of Windlesham (Stuart Edmonds) back in fifth. King has also made an entry for Winter Escape who is unbeaten in three starts including when last seen in a Grade Two event at Kempton in February.
Pauling, who trains near Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, also has eight-year-old course and distance winner A Hare Breath, successful in two of his six starts over hurdles, entered.
Other leading trainers with multiple entries include Nicky Henderson, whose trio include Hargam, the Grade One-placed Brain Power and Consul de Thaix.
Dan Skelton's quartet of entries are Mister Miyagi, North Hill Harvey and Meet The Legend, who were all very useful novices last season, and Ch'tibello who enjoyed his finest hour when successful in the Grade Two Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in April.
There are five Irish-trained entries, including last year's third Waxies Dargle (Noel Meade, Jack The Wire (Denis Hogan), successful in a competitive contest at Listowel last month, Mick Jazz (Gordon Elliott), who has not been seen since being pulled up when favourite for this race in 2015, and the useful St Stephens Green (Emmet Mullins).
Four-year-old Swamp Fox (Joe Murphy) has been a real star for connections throughout 2016. Success in a valuable two-mile handicap at Listowel in September was one of his two victories this year, while he also boasts a very good level of form on the Flat, landing a valuable contest over two miles and a furlong at the Galway Festival in July and finishing third in the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh.
County Tipperary-based Murphy said: "It will depend on the going and how he is, but we have entered Swamp Fox in the StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle to give us the option.
"He has won on different types of ground but I would say at this stage he is better with some cut.
"He is still only a four-year-old and the plan is to run him next in November Handicap on the Flat at Leopardstown on Saturday. We will see how he gets on there and then decide where we will go next.
"I think Swamp Fox is a very promising horse. He has done well to win four competitive races as a four-year-old. His wins at Galway and Listowel came against some good opposition and then it was a good run to come third in the Cesarewitch."
There could also be a French-trained challenger through four-year-old filly Isabe (Christophe Ferland), a dual Listed winner over hurdles in France.
Click here for Sky Bet's latest odds on the StanJames.com Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
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