Hurricane Fly: won Irish Champion Hurdle last yearPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Hurricane Fly leads Irish Champion entries
ANTE-POST Champion Hurdle favourite Hurricane Fly could test his credentials against other contenders for the Cheltenham Festival race at the end of the month, as the Willie Mullins-trained star featured among 14 entries for the Grade 1 BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 27.
The eight-year-old was an easy seven-length winner of the Istabraq Festival Hurdle over course and distance on his last start, and is a general 7-2 chance to win at Cheltenham again, having won at the Festival in 2011 before finishing only third behind Rock On Ruby when odds-on last season.
John Quinn has entered Countrywide Flame, but the race is only an option at this stage with Quinn also considering the Morebattle at Kelso and the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown.
Quinn said: "It's one of the obvious races and we'll know more in a week or two. He's got a couple of options."
The lack of a strong pace in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton was blamed for Countrywide Flame's fourth-place finish last month, and Quinn added: "He should get a stronger pace on a more galloping track like Leopardstown, and there's likely to be something in the race making the pace for Hurricane Fly."
Nicky Henderson could be double-handed, with Grandouet and Binocular entered, with So Young, Thousand Stars and Zaidpour all other possibles for Willie Mullins.
On the same card, 11 have been entered for the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase, with Arvika Ligeonniere one of five entries for Willie Mullins.
The trainer has also entered Boston Bob, Marito, Mikael D'Haguenet and Twinlight, with Alderwood, Benefficient, Jenari, Klepht, Oscars Well and Burn And Turn completing the field.