Saturday 24 February 2018

Dunguib heads champion field

Dunguib. Photo: Getty Images
Dunguib. Photo: Getty Images

Crack novice Dunguib faces 10 rivals when he tackles experienced company in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown tomorrow.

Philip Fenton's charge bids to return to winning ways after losing his 100% record over obstacles when third in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.

However, he takes on quality opposition that includes Punjabi, winner of this race in 2008 and the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle in 2009.

Nicky Henderson's charge was just touched off in this race 12 months ago by Solwhit, who attempts a repeat victory for his trainer Charles Byrnes.

Willie Mullins has a strong hand with Hurricane Fly, who has been restricted to just one run behind Solwhit since winning at this meeting last spring, and Cheltenham Festival scorer Thousand Stars.

Alan King saddles Champion Hurdle disappointment Medermit while David Pipe's Ronaldo Des Mottes is a third British challenger.

Colm Murphy runs the talented mare Voler La Vedette and Noel Meade relies on Aintree Hurdle second Muirhead. De Valira and Won In The Dark complete the field.

The only withdrawal at the overnight declaration stage was the Mullins-trained Quevega who is set to run today in the World series Hurdle.

Alan King is hoping Medermit can bounce back after being well-beaten in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month when he was found to have pulled muscles in his back.

"He was obviously disappointing at Cheltenham after he'd had such a good preparation but he did come back very sore and pulled a few muscles in his back," said King.

"We've given him some time off to recover and he seems very fresh and well now.

"It does look a cracking renewal though, one of the best I cam remember in recent years."

Fenton accepts Dunguib has a tough task but is looking forward to the race nevertheless.

"He's in good form and we're looking forward to running him tomorrow," said the County Waterford trainer.

"He's had a trouble-free run since Cheltenham, all is well, and he's ready for action.

"It will be a tough assignment. We'll see if it's the right decision tomorrow afternoon.

"It's lovely ground, they've done a brilliant job up there."

Henderson believes Punjabi's love of the County Kildare course will stand him in good stead when he runs in the race for the third successive year.

"Punjabi's all set to go. He's always loved it at Punchestown," he told At The Races.

"He's won this before and he got beat a short head last year.

"I'd love to see him bounce back after the Champion Hurdle.

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