Dunguib given tough mission

Sunday return just 'starting point' for O'Connell

Niall Cronin

Off the track for 276 days, Dunguib will return to the fold at the weekend when pitched up against the very best the Irish two-mile hurdling division has to offer in Sunday's Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Beaten last year when favourite for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, Dunguib disappointed many on that occasion, although the form of his third placing that day has been complimented many times since.

Philip Fenton's eight-year-old had done virtually everything before Cheltenham on the bridle and was beaten just over a length by Menorah and Oscar Whisky who have since done nothing to harm the formbook.


The only jockey ever to ride Dunguib in a competitive race is Brian O'Connell and he is hopeful for a good run but looking forward to more to come.

"He has done well over the summer and he seems to be in good form again this year. It's hard to tell if he's improved and we won't know that until he turns up at the races," said the Limerick jockey.

O'Connell and Fenton before him both accept that they are taking on an exceptional horse in Hurricane Fly who has almost beaten six-time Grade One winner Solwhit into submission.

"It looks a very strong race on paper with Hurricane Fly and Solwhit who seem to be leading the way this year, but we're looking forward to a good run out of our horse.

"Obviously he will improve from his first run of the year but it will be a starting point anyway."

O'Connell was quick to overrule the negatives with the positives from last season's novice campaign, which he ended by taking on the big guns in the Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

Referring back to Cheltenham, O'Connell maintained: "There are plenty of positives to take out of the race and the form looks to have been rock solid.

"It would look to have been an exceptional year for novices last year."

The pair have just over 15 lengths to make up with Hurricane Fly on their only previous meeting and while you get the vibe the jockey is hopeful of closing that gap, there will be further improvement to come.

"To expect to beat Hurricane Fly on our first run back would be a lot to ask and we'll just be hoping for a good run from our horse and for him to improve from that," he said.