The Grade 1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle (5.30) is the feature race on day four of the Punchestown Festival and Hurricane Fly cannot be opposed as he bids to land back-to-back victories in the contest.
Willie Mullins’ star hurdler has won 12 of his 15 starts over the obstacles, and was ultra impressive in landing the Champion Hurdle and this race last year.
Although he was disappointing when running below par and finishing third to Rock On Ruby in this year’s Champion he had looked as good as ever when slamming Oscars Well by 6 1/2 lengths on his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown in January.
The eight-year-old is quite simply head and shoulders above his three rivals and should be able to dispose of them with the minimum fuss.
There will be plenty willing to back him to do so at the prohibitive odds of 2/5, but to me it is a race to savour rather than get involved in financially.
Stable companion Thousand Stars, who finished runner-up to him in the race last year, is expected to chase him home again, while Zaidpour could well make it a 1,2,3 for the Mullins yard.
There are two other Grade 1s on the card and the first is the rescheduled Ryanair Novice Chase (4.55) in Lucky William appeals as the value bet at 13/2.
Thomas Cooper’s charge has won three times this term, and produced his best effort last time out when winning a competitive handicap at Fairyhouse off top weight of 11st 10lb.
Although that still leaves him with a bit to find on official ratings, he is clearly on the up and his proven ability to handle heavy going is a major plus as the principles – Menorah and First Lieutenant – are both at their best on good ground.
The other Grade 1 is the Cathal Ryan Memorial Champion Novices’ Hurdle (6.05) and I am very sweet on the chances of Dedigout.
Tony Martins’ gelding has developed into a smart novice and won three of his four starts over hurdles.
He was particularly impressive when landing a competitive handicap at Fairyhouse earlier this month, handles the going and has the services of champion elect Davy Russell in the saddle.
At 13/2 with sportingbet he looks cracking value.
Daily Sport recommended bet: 2pts win Lucky William (13/2 Hills – BOG)
2pts win Dedigout (13/2 sportingbet)