Hurricane can breeze to record after Jezki exit
Hurricane Fly faces little more than a glorified piece of work in his bid to claim sole ownership of the record for career Grade Ones under Ruby Walsh in tomorrow's Stan James Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
After Jessica Harrington's 11th-hour decision to wait for next month's Hatton's Grace Hurdle with the exciting Jezki, the €80,000 two-miler lost any hope of redemption as a meaningful top-level affair.
Willie Mullins is left to saddle three of his brilliant hurdler's four remaining rivals, with Michael Bowe's potential broodmare Akatara chasing a bit of valuable black type, despite being rated nearly five stone inferior to Hurricane Fly.
For all of that Hurricane Fly is an exceptional racehorse, it is regrettable that he will topple Kauto Star's haul of 16 jumps Grade Ones in such cheap fashion.
There is little doubt that he is deserving of such an accolade, so for him to do it in a contest that continues to undermine its Grade One status is a pity.
A year ago, three runners constituted the smallest field that contested the Morgiana since it was promoted to Grade One standard in 2006, as Hurricane Fly sauntered to a record 12-length success when Go Native crashed out at the last.
His 2/5 SP was also the skimpiest price any winner returned, and you couldn't bet against him going off twice as short this time.
Mullins and Walsh could be poised to dominate the rest of the card as well, though the other two graded races should be deeply informative.
Walsh is on Felix Yonger in the Madigans Bars Craddockstown Novice Chase, a cracking two-mile Grade Two that sees Paul Nolan's exciting Naas scorer Defy Logic vie for his second win over the bigger obstacles.
Notwithstanding that the minimum trip is a slight concern, Felix Yonger is fancied to emerge on top in the eight-runner contest.
Twice successful over flights as a novice hurdler en route to chasing Simonsig home at the Cheltenham Festival, he returned from over a year off to record a thoroughly convincing fencing debut win from White Star Line here in May.
That form reads well now and when you take into account that Felix Yonger was the only horse Mullins deemed worthy of leaving in the Drinmore Chase, you'd have to conclude that he might possess the edge to account for a still raw Defy Logic.
Faugheen and City Slicker, both facile winners at the same Punchestown meeting in May, get the nod for the same all-conquering firm in the maiden and handicap hurdles, while Walsh is reunited with Pat Fahy's three-time course winner Morning Assembly in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase.
Morning Assembly is a classy prospect, but Don Cossack is a fearsome talent that should be good enough to prevail.
Gordon Elliott's oversized Gigginstown Stud-owned six-year-old could have done no more than he did on his first stab at fences at Galway, so you'd have to trust him to follow up here, with Bryan Cooper filling in for the suspended Davy Russell.
There is also plenty decent fare at Cork, where Real Steel, Band Of Blood and Desertmore Stream stand out from a particularly potent Philip Fenton delegation.
Fenton's Voluptueux is another to consider in the two-mile maiden hurdle, but preferred in that is Conor O'Dwyer's Blow The Doors Off, which was a fine second to the smart Very Wood at Galway last time.