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Leopardstown ready for historic day

Officials at Leopardstown are thrilled at the prospect of Hurricane Fly bringing the house down by clinching his fifth victory in Sunday's BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle.

A mammoth crowd looks sure to flock to the Foxrock venue to see if Willie Mullins' brilliant gelding can eclipse the mighty Istabraq, who also won the Grade One event four times between 1998 and 2001.

The 11-year-old is unbeaten in nine previous starts at Leopardstown and his army of supporters will be hoping he can extend that record and clinch his 22nd top-level triumph in his latest clash with Champion Hurdle hero Jezki.

Leopardstown's racing and operations manager Nessa Joyce said: "The Champion Hurdle is a fantastic race and it's not just about Hurricane Fly and Jezki. They are the headliners and deservedly so, but it's a good field of six horses and it promises to be a thrilling race.

"I think we'd all love to see them all there in a line turning for home and then Hurricane Fly pulls away to make history. If he can do it, it will be one of those 'where were you' moments. It would be great if it came off."

Much of the talk this week has focussed on the potential ground conditions, with the prospect of drying ground perhaps more likely to suit Jezki than Hurricane Fly.

Joyce admits conditions will not be as testing as they were when the pair last met over Christmas.

She said: "The track has bounced back quite quickly since last weekend's meeting and the hurdle track is now soft, yielding in places.

"Anyone who has ridden the track will tell you the last two furlongs are the fastest part of the course. There is plenty of yielding there.

"Each day this week it has been improving and moisture has come out of the ground. We are due some passing showers, so that might just keep it where it is. There isn't going to be any frost in the ground, so we have no worries on that score."

The Irish Champion Hurdle is the main event on a fascinating seven-race card.

Un De Sceaux, Gilgamboa and Clarcam do battle in what promises to be a thrilling Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase, while a clutch of talented youngsters line up for the Grade Two Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle.

"I know there are only three runners in the Arkle, but they are three very good horses and it's days like this you get excited about if you're a National Hunt enthusiast," said Joyce.

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