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Petit Mouchoir out to extend visitors' dominance

Petit Mouchoir and David Mullins winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown
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Petit Mouchoir, a dual Grade 1 winner this season, heads Ireland's challenge for a fifth consecutive Champion Hurdle triumph in today's festival showpiece.

A third runner in the race for trainer Henry de Bromhead, the Gigginstown House Stud six-year-old will be attempting to become the first grey to land the prize since Rooster Booster in 2003 and to follow in the footsteps of Irish-trained winners Hurricane Fly, Jezki, Faugheen and Annie Power.

Trained last season by Willie Mullins, Petit Mouchoir bounced back from a heavy fall in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November to land the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting before following up in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle in January when he beat Footpad, a rival again today, by a length.

Speaking at Cheltenham yesterday, De Bromhead said: "Petit Mouchoir seems in very good form. Everything has gone well with him since the Irish Champion Hurdle and he travelled over well. He's all set and we'll just have to see how things go. He's a very straight-forward horse and a real galloper."

Like De Bromhead and Gigginstown, Bryan Cooper will be seeking a first win in the race. He said yesterday: "Petit Mouchoir has improved with each run this season and while this will be a different sort of test for him, hopefully, he is still on an upward curve."

Pros An improved performer who looked value for more than the winning margin in the Irish Champion Hurdle after he and Nichols Canyon, a faller at the last, had taken each other on for most of the journey.

Cons Needs to improve again and could be susceptible to rivals coming from off the pace.

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Everything has gone well with him since the Irish Champion Hurdle and he travelled over well
E.W. Terms