Hurricane Fly set to blow away rivals again
At the end of a Leopardstown Christmas Festival that has been defined by shock results, old reliable Hurricane Fly will strive to emulate the mighty Istabraq by claiming a fourth Ryanair Hurdle triumph.
Over the past six years, Willie Mullins' diminutive star has been a beacon of dependability on home soil. As a dual Champion Hurdle hero, he has been pretty good on his travels too, but he is simply in his element in deep ground on this side of the Irish Sea.
Hurricane Fly, owned by Belfast's George Creighton and Crossgar's Rose Boyd, has won a record 20 Grade Ones. Of those, 18 have been plundered on the domestic front, where he has been beaten just twice in marquee events. They might not have all been bona fide championship races, but few can question his status as one of the great two-mile hurdlers of modern times.
Today, Hurricane Fly and Ruby Walsh will seek to stamp some sense of routine on what has been a hazardous few days for punters in Foxrock. A year ago, the elite partnership first toyed with Jezki here. That rivalry has ebbed and flowed spectacularly since, with The Fly edging the balance his way when they clashed for a fifth time at Punchestown last month.
With the ground suitably deep, he is odds-on to prevail again in this bout, though with seven runners there is a decent chance of the honest pace that suits Jezki best. Incredibly, it is over four years since Hurricane Fly contested an Irish Grade One boasting such a numerically large field.
Jessica Harrington's JP McManus-owned Cheltenham victor will doubtless be better suited by the drier ground that he will likely encounter at Prestbury Park come March.
Given how things have transpired over the past few days, though, it would hardly constitute a surprise should he square things up with his nemesis under AP McCoy in this €100,000 contest.
Verdict - Hurricane Fly is trusted to stretch his unbeaten record at this venue to nine.
There are a few other festive treats on the programme that brings the four-day gala to a close, none more so than the three-mile Grade One novices' chase. In that discipline, at least we know to expect the unexpected.
The Tullow Tank is tippedto excel at the distance despite posting an uncharacteristically poor turn in the Drinmore. While he has a tremendous turn of foot when he is on form, he has always looked as though three miles might suit, so it will be fascinating to see how he fares now.