Our Conor will peak at Cheltenham

Dessie Hughes insists Our Conor “couldn’t be better” ahead of his second crack at Hurricane Fly in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 26.

Our Conor will peak at Cheltenham

The Barry Connell-owned youngster burst on to the scene last season when becoming the most impressive winner of the Triumph Hurdle in recent years.

A minor setback picked up when having a pipe-opener on the Flat meant he did not reappear until the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas, where he conceded race fitness and experience to Hurricane Fly and Jezki.

He nevertheless came out of the race with his reputation intact as despite five-year-olds traditionally struggling in the top hurdle division, Our Conor was less than six lengths behind the dual champion hurdler and Hughes expects him to improve considerably for that run.

“He’s 100 per cent, he couldn’t be better,” said Hughes, who trained Hardy Eustace to win two Champion Hurdles.

“He was the last off the bridle at Christmas and it was just race fitness that beat him.

“I’ve no doubt that he’ll improve on that.

“Even when he runs in the Irish Champion I’d expect he’d need that to put him spot-on, so we expect him to peak at Cheltenham – that was what happened last year, he improved with every run.”

Meanwhile, Dunguib is set for his first appearance in the best part of three years in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas on Saturday.

So impressive in winning the 2009 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and a dual Grade One scorer over hurdles the following season, Dunguib’s career has been blighted by injury since the spring of 2010.

He missed much of the following season before making a winning return in the Red Mills Hurdle and finishing eighth behind Hurricane Fly in the 2011 Champion Hurdle.

He has not been seen in action since and considering he has recently turned 11, it is not surprising trainer Philip Fenton expects his charge to need the run in this weekend’s Grade Three contest.

Fenton said: “He’s obviously been off the track a good while and we’ll just be glad to get him back on the track. He’ll be well in need of his first run and we’ll just have to see how he goes before we make any plans for the future.”

Dunguib features among 15 possible runners, with Willie Mullins responsible for seven entries.

The champion trainer has entered Blood Cotil, Drive Time, Marito, Mikael D’Haguenet, Mourad, Turban and Upsie.

Mouse Morris also has a strong hand, with Baily Green, Rathlin and Rule The World in the mix.

The Grade Two Woodlands Park 100 Novice Chase is another fascinating contest, with 12 horses in contention for the Grade Two event.

Mullins has Mozoltov and recent Limerick winner The Paparrazi Kid engaged, with Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack, Morris’ Rogue Angel and Sizing Gold from Henry de Bromhead’s yard among other notable entries.

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