Just seven declared for Leopardstown Champion Hurdle
Willie Mullins expects ‘a bit more improvement’ from Hurricane Fly ahead of four-in-a-row attempt
Trainer Willie Mullins (right) expects improvment from Hurricane Fly. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Our Conor, the first three home in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas, are among just seven entries for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle back at Leopardstown on January 26th.
Hurricane Fly will be bidding for an amazing 19th Grade One victory and, in an ominous warning to his younger rivals, trainer Willie Mullins predicts there is even more to come from the 10-year-old, who has won the Irish Champion for the last three years.
“He seems to be in great form and he has come out of his race at Christmas well,” said the County Carlow handler. “This race was always the plan for him and I think there is a bit more improvement to come.”
Jessica Harrington’s Jezki performed admirably taking on the champion for the first time and may have finished even closer, but for meeting a little trouble in running.
Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, said: “He ran a good race the last day and he has come out of it well and we are looking forward to running him again later on this month.”
Danny Mullins, who rides the Dessie Hughes-trained Our Conor, expects his mount to improve after the partnership finished third in the Ryanair.
He said: “It was his first run of the season and I think he will improve a good bit from that. He jumped the last upsides ‘The Fly’, and not too many horses do that. He is the best hurdle horse that I have ridden. It was a true-run race the last day and they didn’t hang around.
“My horse was having his first run over hurdles since March so I’d expect him to come on a good bit for the run.”
Mullins can also chose from two exciting unbeaten prospects in Annie Power and Un De Sceaux - as well as the veteran Thousand Stars.
Eddie Harty’s admirable veteran Captain Cee Bee, who acted as the pacemaker in the Ryanair, is the only other entry.