Irish Champion Hurdle learning curve for Unaccompanied

DERMOT WELD expects to have a better idea of where Unaccompanied stands in the pecking order after she runs in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 29.

The five-year-old mare has really come of age this season, having shown last term that she was among the best around.

She beat subsequent Breeders’ Cup Turf winner St Nicholas Abbey on the Flat in April and won the Grade One Istabraq Festival Hurdle last time out.

With Willie Mullins’ current champion Hurricane Fly now looking a likely runner, Weld is keen to see how she gets on against one of the best hurdlers of recent times.

“She has come out of her last run very well, but the Irish Champion will be a learning curve for her,” said Weld.

“Hurricane Fly will be very hard to beat, but she has won two Grade Ones and I was delighted with the way she won last month.

“She is only five and is still improving. She has strengthened up well this season, so we’ll let her take her chance and then we’ll see where we’ll go with her for the rest of the season.”

As well as Hurricane Fly Mullins could run the resurgent Mikael D’Haguenet, So Young, Zaidpour and Thousand Stars.

Possibly the only other trainer with as much strength in depth in the division is Lambourn’s Nicky Henderson.

He houses former champion Binocular, the improving Grandouet, Oscar Whisky and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Spirit Son.

Henderson has entered both Binocular and Spirit Son and says there is a good chance one of them could run.

“We won’t rule them in or out. I’ll speak to JP (McManus, owner) about Binocular and he has been very well since Kempton. Spirit Son is also very well, but it really depends on what happens over here The ground will be a factor as well, but we may well run one of them. We’ll make up our minds a bit closer to the time.”

One who needs soft ground to line up is Colm Murphy’s admirable mare Voler La Vedette, who looked in great form during her impressive win over Christmas.

“She has come out of her run at Christmas in great shape and I wouldn’t be afraid to drop her back in trip, but I’d say she will only run if the ground is soft,” said Murphy.

“She has won her Grade One this season which was great and she is settling much better in her races this year.”

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