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Hurricane Fly stays grounded for now

His own infirmities would seem far more likely to undermine Hurricane Fly's dominion than the potency of any rival.

It was unnerving, then, to learn that the Ulster-owned champion hurdler so disappointed in a routine canter yesterday that his comeback — scheduled for Punchestown on Sunday — is now to be postponed until the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.

Imperious in the Champion Hurdle last season, Hurricane Fly had missed the two previous Festivals with injury.

When everything is functioning, he looks the best hurdler since Istabraq. But he is evidently not matching that status at home, for now, and is 7-4 from 6-4 for the defence of his crown in March.

Happily, his trainer reports no new structural problem.

“I was just not happy with him,” Willie Mullins explained.

“A good few of mine have been backward, and I was conscious of ante-post betting on the race so didn't want to wait until Friday.

“He'll not run until I'm happy with him again — and at the moment I'm gearing him towards Christmas.”

A treble at Fairyhouse yesterday afternoon comforted Mullins that his string is now finding its rhythm, with Sous Les Cieux especially impressive.

“He shows a lot at home and while he's still a bit novicey, he'll be better horse in a race with more pace,” Mullins said.

“He'll have no trouble coming back to two miles, and I'd not be afraid to bring him anywhere.”

Another reigning Cheltenham champion does remain on course for his reappearance this weekend, with Long Run lining up for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The British Horseracing Authority yesterday detailed a series of fresh disciplinary cases — one of which concerns explanations offered by Kieren Fallon for failing to arrive in time for his first two rides at Chester on May 5. He faces an inquiry on Monday.

Meanwhile, the number of fixtures for next year is just 24 fewer than in 2011, it was revealed after the programme was finally published.

The list is usually finalised much sooner but was delayed, like last year, because of uncertain funding.

The BHA have set the total number of fixtures at 1,456 — 876 Flat and 580 jumps — down from 1,480 this year.

The Levy Board has committed to an expenditure budget of £65.1million for 2012, £5m higher than that of 2011. 

Belfast Telegraph