14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Darlan spearheads Post entryHeadlines

Ante-post favourite Darlan heads 23 runners for Sunday's Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Nicky Henderson's charge finished second in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival last season before going on to victory at Aintree, and is already one of the leading contenders for the Champion Hurdle next March.

Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, said: "It's a very competitive race, but I know Nicky is very happy with him. It's certainly a step up from his novice days but we would be hoping for a very good run."

Berry added: "It's always hard under top weight, whether you're a novice coming into full company or not, but it's a good starting point for him and we will have a better idea of where we should be heading after that. He's run well fresh before and we're happy with him."

Bothy finished second in the race two years ago, beaten just a length by Menorah, before going down by a short head in the then-Totesport Trophy at Newbury. He also finished second in the Coral Cup in 2011 but was then sidelined by a leg problem.

The six-year-old returned to hurdles action with a fine second at Wetherby last month, and trainer Brian Ellison said: "He's in good form, he's fresh and came back well from Wetherby the other week. I'd be hoping for a bit of rain, though.

"He's competitive enough off his current mark (140) in this, but I think we'll probably have to step up in trip with him in the future. I don't know that Sunday will be too short for him - it will depend on the ground."

Paul Nicholls' trio of Prospect Wells, Ted Spread and Dark Lover are also in the field, along with the likes of the Tom George-trained Olofi, Willie Mullins' Rattan and last year's Galway Hurdle winner Moon Dice.

Henderson also has an interesting second string in former Irish recruit Cash And Go, who will be making his debut for the Seven Barrows handler.

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