Fly can overcome injury scare
Mullins confident bruised foot won't derail shot at fourth Champion Hurdle
HURRICANE FLY will bid for a record-equalling fourth BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle with a question mark over his well-being after Willie Mullins revealed that he was found to have a bruised foot after working poorly during the week.
Mullins was reported yesterday as saying that his exceptional 10-year-old had "disappointed" him in a gallop, describing one piece of work as "well below what he usually shows us".
After identifying a bruised foot as the cause for his substandard showing, he said that Hurricane Fly's shoe was removed and his foot poulticed.
Despite the scare, the champion trainer seems confident that the issue doesn't constitute a cause for concern ahead of his stable star's attempt to clock up a 19th Grade One success in the €110,000 contest, describing him as "fine since".
"We're happy to let him line-up on Sunday and, hopefully, what happened during the week won't have a detrimental effect on his chance of winning the race and retaining his unbeaten record at Leopardstown," Mullins stated.
Ruby Walsh's electric partner will need to be in peak condition if he is to emulate Istabraq's haul.
Jezki and Our Conor are two classy young pretenders that were swatted away by 'The Fly' over Christmas, but their connections' willingness to have another stab at him ensures that the prestigious two-miler has the makings of another fascinating affair despite there being just four runners.
Earlier on what is a cracking spread, Defy Logic, Felix Yonger and Mozoltov are among those set to do battle in the Arkle Chase. That will make for some appetiser.
1.0 MAIDEN HURDLE 2M
Stuccodor, Rock The World, Powder Hound and Little Rocky all have claims, and the newcomer Sir Abbot is interesting after a 'point' win. Stuccodor's debut fifth here was of real note, with two impressive subsequent winners just in front of him.
Verdict: If Stuccodor sharpens up his hurdling he has the class to collect.
1.30 GRADE ONE FRANK WARD SOLICITORS ARKLE NOVICE CHASE 2M 1F
Defy Logic capitalised on Champagne Fever's blunder to win at Christmas. He had luck on his side, but he had hardly flinched in an engrossing duel and won't be easily brushed aside now that AP McCoy takes over with conditions to suit.
Felix Yonger floundered from a winning position at Limerick, when he lacked his usual fluency. The trip shouldn't have been a problem for him, but he drops back now and it may be significant that he beat Defy Logic in style back in December.
Trifolium was flattered a little by his finishing position when second to Defy Logic at Christmas, while Irish Thistle and Mallowney should be held on form.
While Bryan Cooper is jocked up on Trifolium, it wouldn't be a surprise if he ends up riding Mozoltov, which was deeply impressive on his debut over fences, slamming Mallowney and another subsequent winner in Mount Colah at Fairyhouse. Unbeaten over flights when he toppled Don Cossack on his last outing at Punchestown, he is an exciting unknown quantity with bundles of potential.
Verdict: Mozoltov can overcome his lack of experience to confirm his star quality.
2.0 SANDYFORD HANDICAP CHASE 2M 1F
Treat Yourself had Character Actor and Golden Ticket behind when a good second at Naas. He is unexposed over fences and the extra furlong here should suit.
Barneys Honour has yet to find his form, while Heavenly Brook returned to form with when second to Reality Dose at Naas. Slew Charm is 12, but has had just seven runs over fences and readily beat a subsequent dual winner in the North last month.
Verdict: Treat Yourself has the scope to win off his current mark.
2.35 GRADE ONE BHP INSURANCE IRISH CHAMPION HURDLE 2M
Both Jezki and Our Conor had their excuses here over Christmas, but that shouldn't detract from the manner of Hurricane Fly's victory. He swooped to the lead in such decisive fashion that it's hard to imagine Jezki would have matched him had he got a clear run, and it's also worth noting that Hurricane Fly didn't look at all stretched.
He is unbeaten at Leopardstown, loves a cut and the others simply have to improve to beat him.
Our Conor possibly has the most scope for progression and there was an awful lot to like about his run here last month. However, decent juvenile hurdlers often struggle to develop as you might expect, and he may yet be suited by further.
The JP McManus-owned Jezki certainly stepped up on his previous performances at Christmas. Plenty believe he'd have given Hurricane Fly a fright if he got a clear run, and it will be interesting to see what tactics are employed by his possible pace-maker Captain Cee Bee.
Verdict: If Hurricane Fly is in the full of his health he should win again.
3.10 GRADE TWO SYNERGY SOLUTIONS NOVICE HURDLE 2M 4F
Gordon Elliott's Double Irish seemed to surprise everyone when running out a ready winner here from Champagne James last month, while Sure Reef didn't look to be one of Willie Mullins' leading lights when scoring a day earlier.
Wounded Warrior is a lovely individual that has now won a 'point', a bumper and a maiden hurdle, but didn't look to be crying out for a drop in trip over three miles when successful at Navan.
Moonshine Lad has clocked up the same treble in his last three completed starts, and has been impressive against inferior opposition. Gilt Shadow has the best form but flopped in the Royal Bond. Gallant Tipp is unbeaten in two modest hurdles. He comes under the radar but is capable of better.
Verdict: Gallant Tipp looks versatile trip-wise and might have a touch of class.
3.40 HANDICAP CHASE 2M 5F
Wrong Turn won with a bit to spare over course and distance last time. He has won his last two completed starts and isn't harshly treated under an 8lb penalty.
The second, Mackeys Forge, re-opposes. Hold Em Cowboy gained a deserved victory at Fairyhouse, while Sterling Stuff is interesting, having won impressively over fences at Thurles before then unseating there when in with a shout over hurdles.
Knocklong is another to note under McCoy, as he probably has more to give yet.
Verdict: Wrong Turn is one to keep on the right side of for now.
4.10 DONOHOE MARQUEES INH FLAT RACE 2M
Princely Conn's third to Black Hercules is fine form – ditto Windsor Park's seconds to Value At Risk and Noble Endeavour. Watch the betting for Killer Crow and Kilburry.
Verdict: Windsor Park is regally bred and was slightly unlucky here last time.