Hurricane Fly has frightened away most of the opposition as only eight horses have been entered for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 25.
Willie Mullins’s ace performer is set to attempt to make history as the first horse to win the race for a fifth time.
Having already amassed a record 21 Grade One successes, Hurricane Fly is tied with Istabraq (1998-2001) on four wins in the two-mile contest and has an unbeaten record of nine victories at the course.
Jezki, trained by Jessica Harrington, is set to provide the stiffest competition once again after the pair served up a thrilling finish to the Grade One Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas in which Hurricane Fly prevailed by half a length.
Hurricane Fly’s trainer Willie Mullins has also entered Ryanair Hurdle third Arctic Fire, plus Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle winner Faugheen as well as Diakali.
Des McDonogh won the race with Herbert United way back in 1986 and the County Meath trainer has given an entry to the four-year-old Fiscal Focus.
The Intense Focus colt, bred and formerly trained by Jim Bolger, made a successful debut over hurdles on this track on Boxing Day.
“You never know. There’s not too many entered as it is at the moment. We’ll just see nearer the time,” said McDonogh.
“I was delighted with him at Leopardstown. He’s a very good horse, but he wants soft ground.”
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Plinth and last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Tiger Roll, who is trained by Gordon Elliott, complete the line-up.
Meanwhile a classy field looks assured for the Frank Ward Solicitors Irish Arkle Novice Chase with 10 entries for the event, also at Leopardstown on the same day.
Gordon Elliott’s Clarcam is already a Grade One scorer over fences after taking advantage of a blunder by Vautour in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Christmas and will be looking to add to his tally.
The Willie Mullins-trained Vautour had previously made a foot-perfect debut over fences and he could try to avenge his Festive defeat.
Mullins has also entered the hugely-exciting Un De Sceaux, Grade One winner Valseur Lido and Adriana Des Mottes.
Enda Bolger’s classy Limerick winner Gilgamboa has the option, as does the Mouse Morris-trained of duo Real Steel and Band Of Blood.
Noel Meade’s classy Apache Stronghold and Matthew Smith’s Rawnaq are also engaged.
Carlingford Lough could return to Leopardstown for the Hennessy Gold Cup on February 8 following his encouraging effort in the Lexus Chase at the Foxrock venue over Christmas.
John Kiely’s star performer made a belated reappearance in the three-mile feature after an eight-month absence, running well for a long way under Tony McCoy before having to settle for fifth place behind Road To Riches.
“He ran very well. We are all very pleased with him and if all goes well, he’ll go straight for the Hennessy,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.
“AP (McCoy) was delighted with him in the Lexus. He jumped great and hopefully he will come on a bit for the run. He will need to.
“We were all quite happy and he’s come out of it good.”
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