Mullins keeps options open as Fly eyes duel with Jezki
Hurricane Fly could tackle three miles at Punchestown next week and star novice chaser Vautour may be pitched against senior opposition as Willie Mullins finalises his assault plan for the five-day season finale.
Intriguingly, Jessica Harrington's Aintree Hurdle hero Jezki could also step up in trip for Thursday's Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle, raising the possibility of another mouth-watering skirmish between the two former champion hurdlers.
"The plan is to go three miles in the World Hurdle on Thursday," Harrington said of JP McManus' seven-year-old. "Like all plans, it can all change. It sounds like Hurricane Fly is going that way too so we'll probably be looking at his backside again - but hopefully not!"
In amassing a record haul of 22 Grade One successes from 30 career starts over flights, Hurricane Fly, third in last month's Champion Hurdle, has never raced over further than two-and-a-half miles. However, with the formidable Faugheen and Cheltenham runner-up Arctic Fire also engaged in Friday week's two-mile Queally Group Champion Hurdle, Mullins is considering his options for the 11-year-old.
"There's a good chance of it," Mullins said of Hurricane Fly being aimed at next Thursday's €200,000 Grade One. "It's a real runner at the moment. Remember he won over two-and-a-half miles on heavy ground as a four-year-old in France. I think the trip is no problem and I'm seriously coming round to running him in this."
With Un De Sceaux a natural fit for the two-mile Ryanair Novices' Chase and RSA hero Don Poli being aimed at the Growise over three miles, a tilt at Tuesday's Boylesports Champion Chase is increasingly likely for the emphatic JLT Chase winner Vautour.
"Vautour, on his day, is as good a racehorse as I've ever had," Mullins declared of the six-year-old, a 1/2 shot with the sponsors. "We're coming around to thinking that we'll let him take his chance in the BoyleSports. I think Vautour can jump at speed. You can put him anywhere in a race. I'd prefer Vautour rather than Un De Sceaux take it on as we have more options with him tactically. Un De Sceaux has probably only one tactic."
Mullins added that On His Own would likely contest the Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup at the Kildare venue rather than Saturday's Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, though he said that plans are fluid for Aintree flop Champagne Fever.
Barry Geraghty looks poised to return to the saddle in time for Punchestown after spending a month sidelined with a broken shin. "I was with my surgeon this morning and he's happy with how it is," he said of the injury yesterday. "He's going to see me towards the weekend and take a view then.
"I'd be very hopeful of making Punchestown. There could be a small chance I'd make Sandown on Saturday but that's all." Geraghty (below) and Mark Walsh, who has been passed fit to return after breaking his arm and fracturing a bone in his ankle at Thurles in February, will be vying for the ride on Jezki, with AP McCoy bowing out at Sandown on Saturday.
Davy Russell also hopes to be passed fit for Punchestown after breaking a bone in his arm a month ago. Harrington and Mark Bolger, meanwhile, have lodged appeals against the sanctions they received after McManus' runner-up High Tail It was found by the Tipperary stewards to have not been ridden on its merits last Friday. Harrington had indicated that she would not contest her €1,000 fine and the 42-ban imposed on High Tail It, but she has now lodged an appeal, as has Bolger against his seven-day ban.