Hurricane Fly has ability to blow up yet another storm for mighty Mullins
As has been the case in the championship events throughout the week at Punchestown, this evening's Rabobank Champion Hurdle is no less absorbing for the absence of the winner of the equivalent event at Cheltenham. Binocular is not present, but the two-mile Grade One has real strength in depth among the 11 that are.
Philip Fenton takes on the senior horses with his star novice Dunguib, while Hurricane Fly, Solwhit, Punjabi, Muirhead, Voler La Vedette and Medermit are all proven campaigners. With the smart handicappers Ronaldo Des Mottes and Thousand Stars also in attendance, a thorough test awaits the eventual victor.
In light of such immense opposition, Dunguib is opposable. With the ground continuing to dry out, there will be no hiding place, and a suspicion prevails that Brian O'Connell's mount will not be quite ready for such a challenge.
While over-exaggerated tactics may have got him beaten at Cheltenham, the notion that Dunguib exists in another stratosphere to the rest of the equine world was ultimately laid to rest on that occasion. He remains a horse of enormous potential but, as the 3/1 market leader, he couldn't be described as the value option.
Having been beaten for stamina when third to Quevega at Cheltenham, Voler La Vedette is one that may be overpriced at 9/1. Tony McCoy takes the mount on Colm Murphy's mare, and she isn't without place claims.
However, Hurricane Fly gets the nod for the win. Last season's champion novice, the Willie Mullins-trained son of Montjeu's sole start this term came at Punchestown in November. He finished a disappointing third to Solwhit and Muirhead then, but some of Mullins' horses simply weren't right at the time. As we've seen this week, the Carlow-based handler's team is in rude health right now, and Mullins wouldn't turn out Hurricane Fly unless he felt he was back to his best.
Prior to his November defeat, the French-bred looked to be one of the most exciting hurdlers we had seen for some time, so it doesn't require a huge leap of faith to picture him scoring today. At around 7/2, Hurricane Fly holds genuine appeal.
In the Cathal Ryan Memorial Champion Novice Hurdle, Reve De Sivola can land a blow for the English raiders. The home team has numerous solid challengers, including Blackstairmountain's Fairyhouse conqueror Luska Lad, but Reve De Sivola may have the necessary touch of class.
Sixth in the 2009 Triumph Hurdle, Nick Williams' gelding lost his maiden status in a fair Grade Two on his seasonal debut in October. He subsequently split Tell Massini and Berties Dream at Cheltenham, before then beating Restless Harry in the Grade One Challow Hurdle.
At Cheltenham last month, only Peddlers Cross got the better of Reve De Sivola. With no ground or trip concerns, Daryl Jacob's mount looks a sound investment.
In the subsequent novice hurdle, Dr Whizz is taken to make amends for a below-par outing at Fairyhouse in February. Encountering soft ground for a first time that day, Tom Mullins' representative looked all at sea when he came under pressure.
Previously, he had won a bumper and a maiden hurdle -- beating the subsequent MCR Hurdle winner Puyol, which re-opposes here -- in drier underfoot conditions. Now that Dr Whizz gets his favoured surface once again, he could be hard to beat.
Willie Mullins saddles three live contenders in the Motivatechallenge.com Novice Handicap Chase. Quiscover Fontaine may be the pick of the three, having run well over an inadequate trip behind Sizing Europe at Cheltenham.
Another to note is Bran Castle in the concluding bumper. Nick Stokes' gelding is a half-brother to the 1998 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Tarascon, and should improve for the better ground today.
3.40 -- Cool Warrior 6.40 -- Dr Whizz
4.20 -- Tinakellylad 7.10 -- Another Cliche
4.55 -- Quiscover Fontaine 7.45 -- Bran Castle
5.30 -- Hurricane Fly
6.05 -- Reve De Sivola (Nap)