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Dormant Mullins ready to Fly again

PUNCHESTOWN host a two-day meeting this weekend. Sunday is the big day with the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle the feature contest and hopefully Hurricane Fly will be heading the line-up.

Conditions at the Co Kildare venue are set to be extremely testing and a small field is expected for the race that has previously seen Harchibald, Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace return triumphant - to name just a few.

A notable omission from the roll of honour has been Hurricane Fly, who could only finish third behind Solwhit when running in the race in 2009, (sent off 8/13 favourite) and has failed to make the race in the last two years.

Willie Mullins' 2011 Champion Hurdle winner has had his fair share of niggling setbacks.

They have curtailed the amount of times he has raced and despite winning two of his three starts last season - the other being a third place finish in the Champion Hurdle - he still appears to have some doubters ahead of this current campaign.

There are those who are also trying to cast a cloud over some of the Mullins runners at the moment, with the usually all-conquering champion trainer going through a relatively quiet spell in terms of winners.

On Wednesday, he did admit that some of his team were coughing, but was of the opinion that was now cleared up and he could start unleashing his droves of talent.

Just two winners have emerged from his last 13 runners prior to Cheltenham today but, of those runners, yesterday's Clonmel winner Tarla was probably the only real classy individual among them.

With a vast depth of talent at Mullins' disposal from his Closutton stables, the likes of Hurricane Fly, Sir Des Champs, Boston Bob and Champagne Fever have all yet to reappear. If they turn up over the coming weeks, you can be fairly sure Mullins is fully happy with their health and they won't be risked if there are any lingering doubts.

While his current strike rate may not be what we expect, he has not gone up through the gears yet and the likes of Hurricane Fly should have no problem winning when put to the test.

For Hurricane Fly, that test comes on Sunday. His most intriguing rival is undoubtedly Noel Meade's former Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Go Native, who may be nine years old but is lightly raced and appeared to show plenty of his old class with two prep runs on the Flat recently.

Captain Cee Bee left Rebel Fitz reeling when he turned back the clock at Tipperary last month, while Unaccompanied would undoubtedly prefer better ground. Also over the weekend, Mullins is set to begin the season of dual Champion Bumper winner Champagne Fever.

The Grade One Cheltenham and Punchestown winner is short on bookmakers' lists for both novice hurdles and chases at the Cheltenham Festival, and it will certainly be interesting to see how his first run over obstacles transpires.

Mullins' Back In Focus had 33 lengths to spare over his nearest rival when winning a beginners' chase two months ago, and he heads the Florida Pearl Novice Chase on Sunday where he will face Peter Fahey's four-time winner Pride Of The Artic and Paul Nolan's Sweeney Tunes.

Flemenstar warmed the cockles of the jumping fraternity last weekend, and they'll be staying nice as the temperature doesn't look like dropping over the next few days.