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Jezki set to blow away Hurricane Fly again

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Tony McCoy riding Jezki clears the last to win The Racing Post Champion Hurdle from Hurricane Fly at Punchestown. Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Tony McCoy riding Jezki clears the last to win The Racing Post Champion Hurdle from Hurricane Fly at Punchestown. Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

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Jockey Ruby Walsh with Hurricane Fly in the parade ring after winning the Stanjames.com event last year.

Jockey Ruby Walsh with Hurricane Fly in the parade ring after winning the Stanjames.com event last year.

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Tony McCoy riding Jezki clears the last to win The Racing Post Champion Hurdle from Hurricane Fly at Punchestown. Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Jezki and Hurricane Fly will clash for a fifth time when they make their respective seasonal debuts in tomorrow's Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

For a seventh year in succession, the €80,000 Stanjames.com-sponsored event features a field of five runners or less. However, it could hardly be a more compelling event given the time of year and the likely deep ground, with the participation of Colin Bowe's prolific mare Little King Robin adding an element of extra intrigue.

The game front-runner shouldn't be good enough to repel the big guns on unsuitably soft conditions, but her presence under Barry O'Neill will at least ensure a true-run race.

Last year, Hurricane Fly cantered up in this for a second time. Willie Mullins' brilliant dual champion then went on to twice deny Jezki and co at Leopardstown, prior to being rendered more vulnerable on better going behind Jessica Harrington's charge at Cheltenham and Punchestown.

Given the deep ground, there is a sense that this might be a chance for Ruby Walsh's mount to get one back on his nemesis, and the champion trainer's team has certainly begun to fire over the past week.

However, Jezki proved a formidable rival once he matured last term, with the switch to more positive tactics key to his improvement.

Regardless of tomorrow's outcome, Jezki will probably be better coming off a fast face on drier ground in the spring.

That said, the newly crowned champion is fancied to deny Hurricane Fly his 20th Grade One win, as the deserving Mark Walsh seeks what would be just his second top-level triumph in JP McManus' ubiquitous silks.

Opposing the Mullins runners in the two other graded races on tomorrow's card might prove no more wise, but it is worth speculating that the winners will come from elsewhere.

In the Grade Two two-mile novices' chase, Walsh bids to extend Alelchi Inois' unbeaten run over fences to six, as Mikey Fogarty partners Un Beau Roman.

Neither horse is fancied to excel in the mud, with exciting rivals like Azorian, Chancol and Sizing Granite more likely to do so.

Prolific

Noel Meade has his team in typically prolific form for the time of year, and Chancol appeals as being capable of setting him up for a graded brace here.

McManus' five-year-old has won a bumper, a maiden hurdle and a chase in four completed starts over the past year, impressing in the manner of his fencing bow here last month.

Paul Carberry's mount remains open to immense improvement, so he will take plenty beating if he enjoys some luck in running.

In the equivalent two-mile-six-furlong €39,500 edition, Meade has another live one in his Cheltenham Festival hero Very Wood, which never put a foot wrong on its chasing debut at Galway.

Mullins' Indevan, Shanahan's Turn and Lots Of Memories are among some classy opposition in this, but Very Wood has proven quality so he is expected to confirm his enormous potential under the excellent Bryan Cooper.

The Kerry-born rider's Gigginstown Stud employer has an array of serious prospects on duty over the weekend, including tomorrow's nap, No More Heroes.

A point-to-point-winning son of Presenting, Gordon Elliott's five-year-old won both of its bumpers last term, beating the firm's subsequent runaway Limerick winner Milsean in a winners' race at Naas in February.

No More Heroes is clearly a serious talent, so the maiden hurdle should be his for the taking, with the same owner's Mullins-trained Outlander likely to strip fitter for the run on its first start for 571 days.

In the bumper, Gigginstown's Beau Et Sublime can build on its narrow defeat here last month under Maxine O'Sullivan.

Meanwhile, in Cork, Mullins unleashes a pair of smart hurdling prospects in Sempre Medici and Black Hercules.

Sempre Medici is a Rich Ricci import with Listed form in France that lines out in the four-year-old maiden under Paul Townend, who should enjoy an easy time of things aboard the useful bumper performer Black Hercules in the older horses' heat.

Montys Meadow, which finished second to Milsean and Black Hercules after winning at the Mallow venue last December, has the credentials to foil a pair of other Mullins winners in the bumper for Jimmy and Jane Mangan.

Irish Independent