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Echoes In Rain to be heard over rivals at Punchestown

Elliott and Mullins go head to head again for Unibet Morgiana Hurdle


Echoes In Rain

Echoes In Rain

Echoes In Rain

Abacadabras ended Willie Mullins’ domination of the Grade One Unibet Morgiana Hurdle 12 months ago, when holding off Saint Roi despite not doing a stroke in front, though connections of the runner-up feel their charge was a little unlucky in running.

Mullins had won the previous nine renewals and ten in all and he is well represented again in today’s Punchestown feature, with two of the select field of five, a representation equalled by Elliott, Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso completing the quintet.

Saint Roi looks slated for a chasing career but Abacadabras returns along with stablemate Zanahiyr, as does 2018 victor Sharjah and another Closutton resident Echoes In Rain.

Abacadabras had a run before prevailing last year and clearly needed it, as he gave best to Aspire Tower in Down Royal, and while he will enjoy the ground in Kildare, he will undoubtedly improve for the run.

Sharjah is a Leopardstown specialist, particularly a Christmas Leopardstown specialist, and with a fourth consecutive Matheson the likely priority prior to another tilt at Cheltenham, where he has chased home Epatante and Honeysuckle in the last two terms, he will unquestionably be better for the outing.

As mentioned, he was victorious in this race three years ago but was race fit then, having won the Galway Hurdle. He will not be in that condition today, and he is three years older.

Darasso has doubled his winning tally through 2021, winning over hurdles and fences, and bounced back to the type of form that won him a Red Mills Hurdle in February 2019 when prevailing in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last week, in what Joseph O’Brien described on Friday as close to a career best effort.

So he is in good heart, as anything representing Carriganóg seems to be at present, but he stayed on from the back of the pack over a half-mile further last week and this two miles could be too sharp. One suspects he’ll be ridden patiently by Mark Walsh to try to pick up as many euros as he can.

That leaves it between Zanahiyr and Echoes In Rain. Jockey bookings confirm that the former is his yard’s number one, with Davy Russell doing the navigating on the game four-year-old, and Bryan Cooper on Abacadabras.

Zanahiyr looks like he wants further than two miles but if you are looking down the road to the Champion Hurdle, you need stamina as well as boot. He was gutsy when galloping all the way to the line in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal and he could be the pace angle in the race.

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Patrick Mullins rides Sharjah but he is the eight-year-old’s regular partner, so in this instance, bookings are ignored when choosing the stable supremo.

It means Sean O’Keeffe has a tremendous opportunity to steer his first Grade One, on a young filly who improved as she learned to settle last season, wowing at Fairyhouse in April though being a little more workmanlike at Punchestown a few weeks later, when entitled as five-year-old unexposed filly to be still feeling the exertions.

The signals are that she will be fit and ready to go, with Mullins Jnr saying on Tuesday that they want to give her the chance of establishing herself as a Champion Hurdle contender.

It is unlikely that there is any Hurricane Fly in this race, nor a Limestone Lad, the only other horse to win this contest three times. Indeed the Bowe family’s legendary grinder might have made it four but for taking a year out to try chasing, returning to the smaller obstacles to win the race two more times.

This year’s contest is intriguing nonetheless and while we won’t have all the answers after, we will have a quality winner.

And though she is the lowest rated horse in the race by between seven pounds to Darasso and a whopping 21 to Sharjah, and is conceding race fitness to Zanahiyr, today might just be Echoes In Rain’s coming-out party.

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