Lady Buttons tasked with chasing down Altior at Cheltenham Festival

PHIL KIRBY has handed stable star Lady Buttons an eyecatching entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, one of the blue riband races at the Cheltenham Festival.

Lady Buttons and Adam Nicol clear the last at Newbury.

It comes after the mare won the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby before recording notable steeplechase successes at Newbury and Doncaster under regular rider Adam Nicol who is currently recovering from a broken leg suffered in a New Year’s Day fall.

And while the Champion Chase field is headed by 2018 winner Altior who has won 16 races in succession, including all 11 over fences, Catterick-based Kirby is just pleased to have a horse worthy of an entry in such a prestigious race.

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A mare has yet to win the Champion Chase, with the last one to be placed being the great Anaglogs Daughter – runner-up to Drumgora in 1981.

“Lady Buttons has come out of Doncaster in good form,” said Kirby. “We were delighted with her performance and this season, she has just kept on improving.

“She has always been a horse we have held in high regard. She had a couple of niggles earlier on in her career, but the last couple of seasons have been excellent and she has progressed with every run. We have entered her in the Champion Chase. We are still to make a decision as to where she runs next as there are not a whole load of options at two miles for mares.”

Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently, meanwhile, is among 44 entries, including a record 29 from Ireland, for the Ryanair Chase over an extended two-and-a-half miles at Cheltenham.

Waiting Patiently, owned by Richard Collins, had won all six chase starts before being hampered in Kempton’s King George Chase and unseating the luckless Brian Hughes.