Saldier 'progressing nicely' and heads straight to Champion Hurdle says Mullins

Willie Mullins has revealed Morgiana Hurdle winner Saldier is back on track for the Unibet Champion Hurdle and the general 7-1 second-favourite will head straight to the Cheltenham Festival.

The Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned six-year-old, who looked to be getting the better of the ill-fated Espoir D'Allen in the 2018 Fishery Lane Hurdle, accounted for fellow Champion Hurdle entries Petit Mouchoir, Klassical Dream and Sharjah on his seasonal bow in November.

He has since missed Grade 1 engagements at Leopardstown over Christmas and was not among the entries for next month's PCI Irish Champion Hurdle, but on Wednesday he featured in the 36 put forward for the day-one feature and Mullins issued a positive bulletin.

"Saldier is progressing slowly but nicely after his hold-up," he said. "I don't plan to run him before Cheltenham and the Champion Hurdle remains the plan."

Mullins was responsible for four of the entries and added: "Sharjah and Klassical Dream are intended runners in the Irish Champion Hurdle on February 1." His other entry, Aramon, holds engagements in the Irish Champion and the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Nicky Henderson is responsible for the other two runners at the forefront of the market. Favourite Epatante and Pentland Hills feature among five possible contenders for the trainer. 

Speaking from Newbury, where he saddled a double, Henderson said: "We've five in there, we might as well put them in. They won’t all run and it will totally depend on the ground with Verdana Blue, while Fusil Raffles needs to find his form again."

On his stable stars Henderson added: "Pentland Hills runs this weekend, so we’ll see. Epatante and Call Me Lord have been doing their jobs well so far this season. Epatante won’t run again before Cheltenham."