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Nicky Henderson and Hughie Morrison assess day one chances at Cheltenham Festival



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A number of local trainers have runners at Cheltenham on the opening day

TRAINER Nicky Henderson has a total of six runners on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, which kicks off today (Tuesday).

The opening day of the iconic four-day Festival is always important as it can set the tone for the rest of the week and the Seven Barrows handler has some big runners, which includes Shishkin and Epatante.

His first runner of the day comes in the form of Shishkin, under Nico de Boinville, who will line-up as favourite for the Arkle Chase (13.55).

Speaking about his chances, he said: "He's the tour leader now. He was in fantastic form and I've never been happier than I was on Friday. Allmankind will set us a stern test but I hope he's more than up to it."

In the Ultima Handicap Chase (14.30), Henderson has two runners in Pym and OK Corral.

He said: "They're both still in the Grand National and that's where they're heading. They're in good form, Ok Corral's been working very well and has been ready for some time while Pym is good fresh."

The prestigious Champion Hurdle (15.05) - the featured race of the day - comes next and it's Epatante who will run for Henderson.

"Everything's gone well. We have to put a line through the Christmas Hurdle because if she runs to that she isn't going to win here. It wasn't the same mare who won the Christmas Hurdle the previous year, or the Champion Hurdle or Fighting Fifth.

"I was rather hoping for better ground than we're going to get now and there's no doubt it's a much stronger heat than last year. I'm never confident, but after this morning I wouldn't be confident about anything."

Elsewhere in this race, East Ilsley trainer Hughie Morrison has entered Not So Sleepy into the Champion Hurdle.

He said: "I think Honeysuckle will be very difficult to beat. If we hadn't unseated and then wiped out Silver Streak, who knows what might have happened against Epatante at Newcastle.

"Last year Not So Sleepy had been on the go a long time, while he's very hard on himself at home. We got tempted by the Betfair Hurdle last year but this year he wasn't the same horse as he had been at Ascot.

"That made us determined to leave him quiet for six weeks and then train him for this race. If he turns up in the right mood I think he has a chance of being third or fourth."

The Henderson pairing of Floressa and Dame De Compagnie both run in the Mares Hurdle (15.40) this afternoon.

"It's going to be a very competitive race with Concertista and I think Roksana's the one to beat, but we run two good fillies.

"I was rather hoping for better ground, I walked around yesterday and thought it was quite slow then but they've had a whole lot more rain since. I was hoping we'd be getting on to some good ground which would help them."

These quotes are brought to you from the Racing Post - https://www.racingpost.com/cheltenham-festival/



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