Fly's rivals keen for some Cheltenham revenge
WHILE the hero was justifiably hailed after Sunday's Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, connections of Hurricane Fly's beaten rivals remain upbeat about their Cheltenham prospects.
Biggest disappointment of the race was undoubtedly Jezki, which finished last of the four-runner field – in stark contrast to his admirable second-placed finish to the same horse at Christmas. No surprise then to hear trainer Jessica Harrington admitting that her charge ran far too free to do himself justice
In the end, the JP McManus-owned six-year-old was still only beaten little over three lengths but, against that, Tony McCoy is more likely to side with Nicky Henderson's My Tent Or Yours by the time Cheltenham comes around.
Despite his latest effort, Harrington is optimistic that last year's Supreme Novices' third can make his presence felt in the Cotswolds.
"He's come out of the race absolutely fine," she explained. "We decided to drop him in, that was the plan and he just ran too free and too keen. He still wasn't beaten far and all being well he'll be there at Cheltenham in March."
Dessie Hughes, meanwhile, believes that Our Conor will head to the Festival with a "fighting chance" of avenging his length-and-a-half defeat to 'The Fly'.
Last year's brilliant Triumph Hurdle winner was firmly put in his place by Willie Mullins' stable star at Christmas, but the five-year-old improved considerably on Sunday to narrow the gap.
Having got significantly closer to Hurricane Fly than he had done a month earlier, Hughes is confident that the Barry Connell-owned gelding will show further improvement at Prestbury Park.
"We were a bit disappointed as it looked as though he might have it won at one stage, but I'm thrilled he improved, which I thought he would," said Hughes.
"He's just a bit young and for a five-year-old to do that, I think was a tremendous performance. He was nearly the last horse off the bridle, which was a fantastic feat in itself beside that horse (Hurricane Fly). For three or four strides after the last I thought we had him but the other old boy just wore him down.
"Being a young horse, he should improve. I think Cheltenham improved him last year; he was definitely a stone better horse last year at Cheltenham. All in all, we'll be going to Cheltenham more optimistic than pessimistic."
As for the McManus assault on the race, it was confirmed that My Tent Or Yours will bypass Sandown on Saturday and instead head for next month's Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
Winner of the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and Kempton's Christmas Hurdle already this season, the Henderson-trained seven-year-old looks odds-on to be the choice of McCoy for the big one.
There had been reports yesterday that Henderson was concerned about the health of some of his string, suggesting he had isolated My Tent Or Yours and some of his other stable stars.
However, racing manager to McManus, Frank Berry, is not too worried: "Nicky tells me the horse is in very good form and he couldn't be happier with him. I didn't go any further than that. That's all I wanted to know."