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Ulster’s Hurricane is set to blow them away

By Chris McGrath

Willie Mullins seems guaranteed to extend his terrific Punchestown Festival run today, with three of the four likely starters in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle.

They are headed by Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly, whose odds-on defeat at Cheltenham may be reckoned a below-par effort with no affront to the pair who beat him.

Certainly he lacked the zest that has characterised so many of his past wins, not least three at this meeting, and Mullins himself admits that he hopes for better today.

“His first bit of work after Cheltenham, I was a bit disappointed,” Mullins revealed.

“But his last bit was very, very good, and he handles these conditions no problem,” said Mullins, who won the feature yesterday, the World Series Hurdle, with Quevega.

Hurricane Fly is owned by Crossgar’s Rose Boyd and Belfast’s George Creighton.

The eight-year-old won the 2011 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but trailed home in third place last month behind the winner Rock On Ruby and Overturn.

Hurricane Fly was coming off the back off seven successive wins.

This latest, extemporised Punchestown card opens with three Grade One races.

A showdown between Menorah and First Lieutenant in the Ryanair Novice Chase has been salvaged from yesterday, while Felix Younger has no Simonsig to worry about in the Cathal Ryan Memorial Champion Novice Hurdle, having finished clear of the rest at Cheltenham.

Captain Chris will miss tomorrow's rescheduled Gold Cup after Philip Hobbs revealed that the deterioration in ground conditions had caused them to think again about running the top-class chaser.

Last season's winner of Punchestown's Ryanair Novice Chase had been set to start under Richard Johnson when the race was first due to be staged on Wednesday but he will not appear when new declarations are unveiled today.

Hobbs said: “We've decided not to run Captain Chris.

“We're not sure about his stamina and I think it would be unfair to ask him to go three miles on ground that is going to be very soft indeed,” Hobbs explained.

The trainer will now have no runners at Punchestown tomorrow with his other entries also to be removed at today's declaration stage.

Belfast Telegraph


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