Hurricane Fly a doubt for Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown
Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly is a doubt for Sunday's big Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown - with the last two winners of the Down Royal Festival's WKD Hurdle ready to pounce.
Jezki won last year's WKD Hurdle under Tony McCoy before going on to Champion Hurdle success at Cheltenham, while Little King Robin was triumphant in the Festival's Friday feature less than a fortnight ago.
Hurricane Fly - owned by Belfast's George Creighton and Rose Boyd of Crossgar - is currently 10/11 favourite - just ahead of even money Jezki - but Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has expressed fitness concerns about the former ahead of the glamour £70,000 contest.
Although Hurricane Fly is seeking a third successive Morgiana Hurdle win, Mullins fears he may not be fit enough to turn the tables on his younger rival Jezki.
"He has been working well up to now and I think that he is at least as fit as this time last year but he'd want to be a bit fitter if Jezki turns up," said Mullins.
Ulster great McCoy is injured and will miss the ride on Jezki while the horse's Cheltenham Festival partner Barry Geraghty is likely to be in action for Nicky Henderson at Cheltenham on the same afternoon.
Owner JP McManus's racing manager Frank Berry yesterday nominated the owner's preferred Ireland-based rider Mark Walsh as Geraghty's substitute.
"If Barry Geraghty is not available Mark Walsh will ride Jezki," said Berry.
"We are very happy with the horse and looking forward to him running."
Walsh rode Little King Robin to Down Royal Festival glory in the £50,000 WKD Hurdle just 12 days ago.
Little King Robin is one of the year's biggest improvers and is geared up for what would be her first run at the highest level.
Trainer Colin Bowe said: "She seems fit, healthy and fresh.
"She came out of the Down Royal race bouncing. That race was an opportunity to see what standard she was really at and if she hadn't won there she would not be going near Sunday's race.
"But she did win so she is entitled to run," added the Wexford handler.
King Of The Picts, who finished fourth to Little King Robin at Down Royal, will also run.
Trainer Pat Shanahan said: "King of the Picts is a Graded winner and has been placed in Grade Ones so he is entitled to have a crack."