HURRICANE FLY IS set to go to war with his younger rivals Jezki and Our Conor once again in the Irish Champion Hurdle, after all three were amongst the seven entries received for Leopardstown’s Grade 1 contest later in the month.
‘The Fly’ beat off the young pretenders in the Ryanair Hurdle at the same track over Christmas to record his 18th Grade 1 victory and he will be on the hunt for number 19, as he tries to defend the crown he has won for the past three seasons.
A fourth win would put Willie Mullins’ charge level on Champion Hurdle wins with the great Istabraq and Mullins says that this race was always the plan for his stable star.
“He seems to be in great form and he has come out of his race at Christmas well,” he says. “This race was always the plan for him and I think there is a bit more improvement to come.”
Jessica Harrington’s Jezki was the hard luck story of the Ryanair Hurdle and surely would have been closer to ‘The Fly’ bar running into traffic trouble before the last. Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, said he is hopeful of another big performance from their six-year-old:
“He ran a good race the last day and he has come out of it well and we are looking forward to running him again later on this month.”
Danny Mullins, who rode Our Conor over hurdles for the first time over Christmas, expects his mount to improve from his run at Christmas and said: “It was his first run of the season and I think he will improve a good bit from that. He jumped the last upsides the ‘Fly’ and not too many horses do that.”
He added: “He is the best hurdle horse that I have ridden. It was a true run race the last day and they didn’t hang around. My horse was having his first run over hurdles since March so I’d expect him to come on a good bit for the run.”
Captain Cee Bee and Thousand Stars, used as pacemakers in the Ryanair Hurdle, are again set to line up whilst Willie Mullins could also call upon the unbeaten pair of Un De Sceaux and Annie Power for the Grade 1 contest, presumably if Hurricane Fly is forced to miss the race for any reason.