17.30 Punchestown: Hurricane Fly can storm to Champion glory
Only three go to post for the feature race of the day, and the scene looks set for Hurricane Fly to land the contest for the fifth time in succession.
Willie Mullins’ gelding finished fourth behind Jezki in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but there are strong reasons to believe he can turn the tables.
The 10-year-old has a superb record in small fields where he can bring his tactical speed into play.
That strength was highlighted in his first three runs this season, which resulted in three Grade 1 wins in contests featuring no more than four rivals on any occasion.
The son of Montjeu twice finished in front of Jezki in those successes, and on both occasions his main rival was ridden by Tony McCoy.
The 19 times champion jockey is back in the plate again after wrongly siding with My Tent Or Yours in the Champion Hurdle, leaving Barry Geraghty to steer Jezki to victory at Presbury Park.
To me that is a negative, as Geraghty is unbeaten in five races on Jezki and clearly knows how to get the very best out of him.
Jessica Harrington’s six-year-old needs a bit of knowing, and although undoubtedly a class act I can see him struggling to cope with Hurricane Fly in what is going to be a real tactical battle.
Hurricane Fly also runs Punchestown particularly well and has been beaten only once in nine runs at the venue.
His record over hurdles since joining Mullins in 2008 is truly phenomenal and has established him as one of the greatest hurdlers of all time.
In 25 races, “The Fly” has triumphed 21 times, finished runner-up once and third on the two other occasions.
That has secured him £1,605,889 in win and place prize money, but what is even more remarkable is that 19 of his 21 successes have come in Grade 1 company.
This looks the perfect opportunity for Hurricane Fly to further enhance that tremendous record, and it would be no surprise to see connections announce his deserved retirement if he does land the spoils.