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Punchestown Festival preview: World Series Hurdle (17.30)

Old rivals Hurricane Fly and Jezki dominate the betting for today’s World Series Hurdle at Punchestown (17.30), but the classy pair are both tackling 3m for the first time, so Lieutenant Colonel looks decent value to land the spoils.

Lieutenant Colonel is trained by Sandra Hughes and was a smart novice hurdler last season, finishing a 5 1/2 length runner-up to Vautour on his hurdling debut before running a highly creditable sixth of 15 to Faugheen in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival.

The gelding went on to land a Grade 2 contest at Fairyhouse in good style, and after finishing runner-up over fences on his first start this season went on to win back-to-back Grade 1 hurdle contests at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.

This six-year-old beat Jetson on both occasions, and showed a good attitude on the last of those when scoring by 3/4 of a length on his first try at 3m.

That win suggested that Lieutenant Colonel could have even more to offer and, although not at his best last time out in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, he ran far too free in the first time cheekpieces and looks worth another chance with that headgear now discarded.

Hurricane Fly and Jezki are undoubtedly the class acts, but both are unproven at the trip.

The current head-to-head score between the pair is 6-2 in the Fly’s favour, and the Willie Mullins trained veteran is favourite to record a remarkable 23rd Grade 1 success.

Hurricane, now 11, has has looked as good as ever this season despite his advancing years, winning three Grade 1 contests before finishing a cracking third to stable companion Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle.

Connections are covinced he will stay, but I am not so sure and despite his superb record at the track (nine wins from 11 runs) think he is worth taking on at the odds on offer.

The Jessica Harrington trained Jezki looked to have the world at his feet when winning thhe Champion Hurdle in 2014 and following up at this meeting with a smooth success over Hurricane Fly.

However, the seven-year-old has been largely disappointing this season and looked the somewhat fortunate winner of a Grade 1 contest over 2m 4f at Aintree last time out when gifted the race by the last flight fall of the strong travelling Arctic Fire.

Jezki also needs good ground to be seen at his best, and the yielding going could leave him vulnerable to an proven stayer like Lieutenant Colonel on his first try at the trip.