Hurricane Fly: unbeaten in four starts at LeopardstownPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Hurricane Fly bids for 13th Grade 1 win
HURRICANE FLY, displaced at the head of the Champion Hurdle market by Darlan three days ago, gets his chance to further his claims to become only the second horse to regain the hurdling crown at Cheltenham in March when he returns to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Istabraq Festival Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old, who is on the trail of a 13th Grade 1 win, is unbeaten in four starts at Leopardstown with his victories at the track including the 2010 running of today's race, the feature event on the final day of the Christmas meeting.
Hurricane Fly will start long odds-on to beat his four rivals, who include his stablemate Thousand Stars, Unaccompanied, winner of the race a year ago when Thousand Stars finished second, and Captain Cee Bee, who was beaten 12 lengths by Hurricane Fly when second in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month.
Mullins said: "He is four from four in Grade 1 races at Leopardstown and everything has gone well with him since his win in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month. He has shown he handles the course very well and he goes on all types of ground, so even if they get more rain it won't be a problem for him.
"There's really not a lot more to say about him. His form is there for all to see and we're looking forward to seeing him in action again."
There's also Grade 1 action at Newbury on Saturday with six runners going to post in the Betfred Mobile Sports Challow Novices' Hurdle.
Donald McCain saddles Clondaw Kaempfer, unbeaten over hurdles and a general 10-1 chance for the Neptune Investment Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Assessing his chance, McCain said: "It's a step up in class but if he copes with the ground he should go close. The ground is a slight concern but there are limited opportunities at this time of year and hopefully he will handle it. Whether he does or not, he's an exciting horse for the future."
Vying for Challow favouritism with Clondaw Kaempfer is Taquin Du Seuil and his trainer, Jonjo O'Neill, said: "He's in good form at home but it's a tough little race. He's pleasing us and everything - the trip, the course, the ground - will all suit him. But there are no easy Grade 1s and it'll be a tough race to win."
Doncaster Soft, Heavy in places
Kelso Heavy - racing goes ahead
Limerick Heavy - racing goes ahead
Newbury Heavy on the hurdle course and heavy, soft in places on the chase track