Saturday 24 March 2018

Fly set for shot at magnificent seven

Mullins star in line for Leopardstown clash with Our Conor

Thomas Kelly

A MOUTH-watering clash between reigning Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly and pretender to the crown Our Conor is on the cards for Leopardstown's Christmas meeting.

The Foxrock venue's four-day extravaganza was officially launched yesterday at Willie Mullins' Closutton yard, from where it was confirmed the champion trainer is to aim most of his big guns at the fixture.

Hurricane Fly is unbeaten in six Grade One contests at Leopardstown and he will bid to make it a magnificent seven there in the Ryanair Hurdle on December 29.

The nine-year-old set a new record for Grade One wins over jumps with a 17th success at the highest level in the Morgiana Hurdle on his comeback and Mullins believes he will improve significantly for that narrow win.

"It was probably his least impressive performance, but he will come on enormously for that," Mullins explained. "He loves it around Leopardstown and he has won six times around there. He will go back there for the Festival.


"Everything is geared towards retaining his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham."

Adding intrigue to the newly sponsored contest is the scheduled reappearance of Our Conor, which is on course for his seasonal return according to Dessie Hughes.

Last season's impressive Triumph Hurdle winner sustained minor injuries after he ran in a Flat handicap at Naas in October, but his trainer has issued a positive bulletin.

"He is 100pc and he'll go straight to Leopardstown at Christmas," said Hughes.

Jezki and My Tent Or Yours also hold entries, as does Annie Power, but Mullins said the unbeaten mare is more likely to run in the Christmas Hurdle 24 hours earlier.

On the same afternoon, the Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs will bid to gain revenge on Bobs Worth for last season's defeat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The first two home from chasing's blue riband spearhead the 20 entries for the Lexus Chase and the champion trainer is hoping that it will be his charge's second run of the season.

"He will start back in the John Durkan Chase (at Punchestown on Sunday)," Mullins outlined. "And depending on how that goes, there is every chance that he'll run the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown."

The Co Carlow handler could also run his new French import Rubi Ball, beaten on his Irish debut at Thurles last week.

"He is a very exciting recruit to the yard and he has some very good from in his native France," said Mullins. "He handles very deep ground and he came to us with a very good reputation.

"He does stay very well and is a triple Grade One winner in France. He was a little disappointing at Thurles but at this stage of his career he probably wants softer ground and might be better going left-handed."

Mullins has also entered Boston Bob and Arvika Ligeonniere. Bobs Worth disappointed on his seasonal return at Haydock but trainer Nicky Henderson was not too despondent and mentioned a trip to Ireland as one of very few options for his star.

The Seven Barrows handler said: "It is just a week after he ran at Haydock and we haven't discussed yet as to where he'll go next, but we have made the entry for Leopardstown and it's an option for us."

Paul Nicholls has entered last year's winner Tidal Bay, Silviniaco Conti, Unioniste and Hennessy runner-up Rocky Creek.

One of the most exciting young horses at Closutton is also scheduled to run at Leopardstown as Briar Hill is among 43 entries for the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle on the second day of the Festival.

A surprise winner of the Champion Bumper in March, the five-year-old, owned by Graham Wylie, currently heads the market for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Mullins said: "We seem to have a nice team of novice hurdlers and this fellow won his maiden hurdle nicely at Wexford. I would expect him to come on for that and he will have a few options over Christmas."

Mullins has a strong team to chose from which includes City Slicker, Clondaw Court, Faugheen, Moyle Park, Lucky Bridle and Pink Hat. Impressive Royal Bond winner The Tullow Tank is engaged for trainer Philip Fenton and owner Barry Connell.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport