Mullins gives 'Fly' Hurdle thumbs-up
Published 19/04/2011 | 05:00
Hurricane Fly is on course to defend his crown in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown on May 6.
No horse has won this race twice since it was revamped in 1999, but Willie Mullins' star will return to the County Kildare track with a real chance, fresh from his brilliant success in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
"I am pleased with Hurricane Fly at the moment and the plan is to go to the Rabobank Champion Hurdle," said Mullins.
"We have had ups and downs with him the past couple of years but this year everything has gone according to plan and we are happy that at Cheltenham he was able to show what we always hoped he might do. We were very pleased with that and delighted with how he has come out of Cheltenham."
The 16 entries for the Punchestown contest also feature the Nicky Henderson-trained Binocular -- winner of Cheltenham's Champion Hurdle in 2010 -- and the Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah, fifth behind Hurricane Fly there last month.
Menorah, which won a bumper at Naas for trainer Thomas Mullins before moving to Hobbs' yard, is reported to have returned to form after his below-par run at Cheltenham.
Hobbs said: "Menorah was disappointing in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and there was no real reason for it. He was a little bit flat for a week or two but he seems fine now."
Other possibles include Philip Fenton's stable star Dunguib, Colm Murphy's smart mare Voler La Vedette and British hopefuls Mille Chief, Overturn and Starluck.
Mullins revealed that Quevega, a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner which also holds an entry in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle, was more likely to defend her Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle crown the previous afternoon.
She could be joined in that race by stablemate Thousand Stars, which was narrowly beaten by Oscar Whisky in the Aintree Hurdle last time out.
Mullins added: "Thousand Stars seems to be in good form after Aintree. We won't make a decision up until the day which way we go with him."
Unsurprisingly, the Mullins runners dominate the market, with Ladbrokes making Quevega 7/4 favourite from stablemate Mourad at 5/2, with Thousand Stars next at 9/2.
Completing Mullins' sextet in the race is last year's Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle winner Blackstairmountain, Mikael D'Haguenet and Cheltenham Festival winner Sir Des Champs.
"We're yet to decide what to do with Sir Des Champs," Mullins explained. "All I know is that I have only run him three times and he has won three times, so I don't know how good he is.
"We might decide to find out or we might put him out to grass. I have a few entries for him and could run him in a handicap."
Captain Chris is being aimed at the Ryanair Novice Chase following his victory in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham. "Captain Chris has come out of Cheltenham really well and he is doing good," said Hobbs.
"I would have gone to Aintree but there was no race for him there, so he will head over to Punchestown where we hope he can run another good race. He wouldn't want it soft and I'm sure Punchestown will keep it safe."
Others among a 12-strong entry are the Paul Nolan-trained Noble Prince, winner of the Jewson Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, and the Paul Nicholls-trained Ghizao.
- Willie Twiston-Davies had surgery yesterday to repair the broken leg he suffered after his mount, Battlecry, slipped and fell over in a hunter chase at Stratford last Sunday. The 16-year-old won the Aintree Fox Hunters' on Baby Run, which is to be ridden by his brother Sam in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.