Binocular will not take focus from Fly
Hurricane Fly will move to within one of Istabraq's record four Irish Champion Hurdle victories if he justifies odds-on favouritism under Ruby Walsh in tomorrow's BHP Insurance-sponsored Grade One at Leopardstown.
With Binocular journeying from Nicky Henderson's Lambourn yard for the €110,000 feature, Willie Mullins' nine-year-old looks set to face at least one meaningful rival.
On all known form, the remaining three runners, stablemate Thousand Stars, Captain Cee Bee and One Cool Shabra, haven't a prayer if The Fly cuts the sort of rejuvenated dash that he has done in clocking up his 12th and 13th top-level triumphs this term.
In truth, the head-to-head between the two former Cheltenham heroes is also one-sided, with Hurricane Fly shading both previous encounters.
Nonetheless, Binocular's presence under AP McCoy adds a welcome dimension to the two-miler and it will be intriguing to see how the JP McManus-owned gelding fares on his seasonal bow.
That all said, it would be a serious blow to Hurricane Fly's prospects of regaining the crown that he lost in Prestbury Park last March if he, Walsh and Mullins aren't all three-time Irish Champion Hurdle winners by the close of play.
As ever, the champion trainer could saddle numerous odds-on shots on the eight-race card, but few appear as bombproof as the stable star.
In the maiden hurdle, McCoy could foil the Walsh-ridden Urano on Some Article for McManus and Mullins' brother Tom, while Pont Alexandre is opposable in the Synergy Solutions Hurdle.
This two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two novice is a cracking heat. Of the eight runners, few could be discounted, with Our Vinnie one of the more established contenders.
Charles Byrnes' tough son of Vinnie Roe has now ground out successive Grade Three wins at Cork and Limerick, but the drop back from three miles probably counts as a negative.
On a line through Busty Brown, less than half a length back in third at Cork but 13 lengths behind Pont Alexandre when that one made a winning bow for Mullins in Grade One company at Navan last month, the likely favourite's form reads well.
Still, he is taken on with Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Gold, a progressive sort that accounted for last Saturday's winner Morning Assembly when obliging here recently.
Previously a respective runner-up behind Don Cossack and Seefood, both of which were well held by Pont Alexandre at Navan, Sizing Gold has plenty to find on paper.
Nonetheless, he is a big, handsome sort that is progressing well, so he appeals as nap material to continue his ascent under Andrew Lynch.
In the preceding mares' novice hurdle that has been transferred from Fairyhouse, Mullins' Zuzka sets a fair standard, but Mags Mullins' Oscars Joy is preferred in that under the trainer's son, Danny.
When successful at Fairyhouse, Oscars Joy had subsequent winners Caoimhe's Delight and Annie Oakley behind, so her form is solid.
In the Tote Handicap Hurdle, Danny has another fancied spin for his father Tony on Sammy Black, which travelled smoothly here last time before tiring into third behind the re-opposing Shariyan.
If Sammy Black comes on for that, he should go very close now.