Friday 23 March 2018

Hurricane set for Punchestown

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

reigning champion hurdler Hurricane Fly is pencilled in to make his seasonal debut in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on November 20, the race that he last tasted defeat in when a below-par third behind Solwhit and Muirhead two years ago.

Since then, Willie Mullins' seven-year-old has confirmed himself one of the most exciting hurdlers of his generation by going on an unbeaten run of six in Grade One events. He ran out an impressive winner of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, before following up in scintillating style at Punchestown.

In all, he could face a maximum of eight opponents back at the Kildare venue in just over a fortnight's time, with his classy stablemates Thousand Stars and So Young among that contingent.

Oscars Well and Pittoni are likewise engaged, as are the mares Unaccompanied and Voler La Vedette.

Also revealed yesterday were the weights for the two featured handicaps at Cheltenham's Open meeting. Paul Nicholls' Poquelin has been handed 11st 12lb in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on the Saturday, with last weekend's Naas winner Noble Prince set to carry 11st 2lb.

On the final day of the three-day fixture, on November 13, Overturn has been allocated top weight in the Greatwood Hurdle. The Paul Flynn-trained Moon Dice, a brilliant winner of the Galway Hurdle in July, catches the eye off 10st 6lb in that, just two pounds higher than his domestic rating.

"Moon Dice is in great form and he will definitely run in the Greatwood," said Flynn. "The race was the main target that we had in mind after he won at Galway and we gave him a good break to freshen him up. I feel that he has improved since Galway."

Kalann, an emphatic scorer at the track last month for Sabrina Harty, is currently in off 10st 12lb. Moon Dice is quoted at 12/1 with Paddy Power, who make Nicky Henderson's Grandouet (10st 12lb) and the Nicholls-trained Brampour (10st 11lb), a winner at Ascot on Saturday, their 9/1 joint-favourites.

The entries for Haydock's Betfair Chase on November 19 were also published. Long Run and Kauto Star's names both appear on the 19-strong list, as do those of the Irish-based Rubi Light and Roberto Goldback.

Meanwhile, Ruby Walsh's appeal against the five-day whip ban he incurred at Aintree recently is to be heard this morning at 9.30. If the appeal fails, he cannot ride this weekend.

Across the Atlantic, Strong Suit has convinced Richard Hughes that he is equipped to handle two turns in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Mile after impressing the Kildare jockey in a spin round the Churchill Downs turf oval yesterday.

Hughes was delighted with the effort the Richard Hannon-trained colt put in.

"He was brilliant," said Hughes. "He switched leads without me having to ask. The ground suits him too. He wants it like a road."

Meanwhile, Strong Suit's main rival in the betting, the history-chasing favourite Goldikova, continued to be strong in the betting last night, with Coral cutting her to 7/4 from 2/1.

Irish Independent

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