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Hurricane can regain full force for glory

NOW that the rain has finally eased off we can look ahead to Rabobank Champion Hurdle day at Punchestown tomorrow for which Hurricane Fly will bid to come back to the form that saw him win his race last year.

Willie Mullins' 10-time Grade One winner will be facing a small field as he bids for a hat-trick of wins in the race and there is probably little doubt that if he turns up as we know he can, there will only be one winner.

Hurricane Fly just failed to sparkle at Cheltenham when only finishing third to Rock On Ruby, but he still was third in a Champion Hurdle so whatever way you look at it, it wasn't that bad a run.

There is no doubt that he would have certainly been expected to finish in front of both Rock On Ruby and Overturn, but for whatever reason he didn't fire and tomorrow the son of Montjeu will get the opportunity to put that behind him.

We saw yesterday that Willie's horses are in flying form and it could well be a clean sweep for him in the feature race with the very talented Thousand Stars and Zaidpour also lining up.

It's a pity that there is such a small field, but with the events of the past 48 hours, we are just glad to see racing going ahead and Hurricane Fly is such a popular horse with the Irish racing public that it would be a pity if he didn't return to winning ways and a huge surprise too.

Tomorrow's other Grade One contest is the Cathal Ryan Memorial Novice Hurdle which could well go the way of Rebel Fitz who comes into the race after enjoying a bit of a break.

Michael Winters' charge will be a bit of a price for the 2m4f contest that also features Grade One winner Benefficient and Cheltenham Festival runner-up Felix Yonger.

It'll be a real difficult assignment for the seven-year-old who hasn't raced since finishing second to Mount Benbullen at Navan last November. However, he was a winner first time out and has always ran well with a bit of a gap between his runs, so at the price and on the ground, he may be one to keep on the right side of.

Felix Yonger is a likely short-priced favourite and it is hard to argue with him being that after he put up such a game effort at Cheltenham when second behind Simonsig, but Rebel Fitz remains the hope.

Punchestown have lost the four scheduled chases due to take place tomorrow but have moved today’s Ryanair Novice Chase to tomorrow to form a five-race card.

That is a nice little bonus for tomorrow’s action and it is a race that features the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant amongst its seven runners.

Last year’s Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle winner Shot From The Hip was added to the field this morning, but Nearest The Pin was withdrawn as declarations for the race were reopened.

First Lieutenant is rated three pounds inferior to the Philip Hobbs raider Menorah, but it is last year’s Neptune Investments Novices’ Hurdle winner First Lieutenant that is given the nod.

Despite the fact that connections have opted to drop First Lieutenant back in trip to two miles to contest the race sponsored by his owner, Michael O’Leary, this isn’t a concern as he did in fact win a Grade One novice hurdle at Leopardstown on testing ground last Christmas.

Elsewhere on the card Gowran Park winner Tango Banbou seems to be the second string of the Willie Mullins duo lining up in the two-mile novice hurdle, however take a chance that he can run his rivals into submission again like he did when causing a big surprise.

The concluding contest of the five-race card is the ITBA Fillies Premier Bumper in which a tentative selection is given to the Nina Carberry-ridden Lady Of Glencoe who looks the pick on all previous form lines.