Our Conor must prove he can mix it with big boys -- Ruby
Ruby Walsh feels young pretender Our Conor has something to prove when he takes on Hurricane Fly in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29.
While Walsh acknowledges Our Conor looked potentially top-class when running away with the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, he believes the Dessie Hughes-trained gelding still has to prove himself against the big boys.
"Our Conor looked like an exceptional juvenile. The way he won the Triumph was breathtaking, the way he travelled through the race, but this is a big step up for him," Walsh said.
"He's only a four-year-old taking on an older, hardened horse like Hurricane Fly. It will be a big step up for Our Conor -- he looks potentially like he'll make it, but he'll have to prove he can."
On potential contenders for Hurricane Fly's Champion Hurdle crown, Walsh was impressed by The New One's victory in the International Hurdle last Saturday. "I thought The New One was very good. You had to like the way he quickened up from the last. He's a very good horse," he said.
Meanwhile, the highly regarded Moscow Mannon is set to make his debut over fences and first start for Henry De Bromhead in a novice chase at Navan on Saturday.
The seven-year-old won three bumpers for Downpatrick-based Brian Hamilton a couple of seasons ago and finished fourth behind Champagne Fever in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
He made a decent start to his jumping career last season, winning a novice hurdle at Navan before running well behind the likes of Annie Power and, most recently, Un De Sceaux at the Punchestown Festival.
De Bromhead is looking forward to seeing how he fares on his stable debut this weekend. "He's a nice horse. We'll see how he gets on," said the Co Waterford handler. Moscow Mannon's potential opponents include Willie Mullins' high-class juvenile hurdler Blood Cotil, last seen beating stable companion Diakali in an Auteuil Grade Three in May.
The trainer also reports Sizing Europe to be in top form as his stable star bids to repeat last year's victory in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on December 27.
"He's in mad form. I couldn't believe it the other day. The boys were having trouble holding him," said De Bromhead. "He's in some form and I'm really looking forward to Christmas with him."
Across the water, Kempton can look forward to a major boost on the second day of the King George meeting next week with news that Sprinter Sacre will run in the Desert Orchid Chase.
The champion chaser has responded well to treatment for the minor infection that prevented him contesting the Tingle Creek at Sandown earlier this month.
"Antibiotics cleared up his problem in no time," said trainer Nicky Henderson yesterday. "He worked very well on Saturday and again this morning, and we scoped him yesterday and it was clean. As he missed his earlier target we are keen to run him, and it still gives us three weeks to the Victor Chandler at Ascot."