Stars can shine as Hurricane passes
The possibility of Hurricane Fly's eagerly-awaited return being further delayed seemed to increase substantially last week when Paddy Power felt compelled to suspend the ante-post market on this afternoon's Istabraq Hurdle.
A flood of money for the exceptional champion hurdler's stablemate Thousand Stars had prompted the bookmaker to take action, and the money was proved right when the declarations for the Leopardstown Grade One filtered through.
Willie Mullins subsequently reported that he simply wasn't happy that Hurricane Fly was ready to do himself justice, so the wait goes on.
Similar to what happened prior to the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November, then, the stage is set for Thousand Stars to exploit the opportunity.
Granted, this two-mile contest has the makings of a slightly more thorough test, but there is undoubtedly an element of Hamlet without the prince here.
Thousand Stars had Oscars Well behind when cantering up in the Morgiana Hurdle. Mullins' honest and consistent sort is undoubtedly the one to beat again today.
Unaccompanied was a high-class novice for Dermot Weld last term, and recorded an impressive win in a decent Listed race at Naas in November. She remains open to further progression, though she may be most effective with more cut in the ground.
With Voler La Vedette doubtful, Moon Dice and The Real Article are the up-and-comers.
The latter, third to Voler La Vedette in the Hatton's Grace, will be better suited by the drop back to two miles on decent going.
Galway Hurdle winner Moon Dice was an eye-catching fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle, but still has something to find at this level.
Earlier on, two of last season's leading novice hurdlers clash when Hidden Cyclone and Shot From The Hip tackle the beginners' chase.
Neither had their limitations fully examined over the smaller obstacles, and trainer John ‘Shark' Hanlon has gone so far as to speak of Hidden Cyclone as the sort of horse that could develop into a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender.
Such a bold prediction is unlikely to be definitively confirmed or denied on the imposing six-year-old's fencing bow, but it does add extra intrigue to proceedings.