One of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival last month came when Hurricane Fly bounded up the hill to win the Champion Hurdle. It was a memorable victory on the first day of the meeting as he became the first horse since in 1975 to regain the Champion Hurdle crown. That proved beyond doubt that Hurricane Fly is the best hurdler of his generation and punters will get another chance to see him strut his stuff at Punchestown on Friday.
The Rabobank Champion Hurdle is always one of the highlights of the Punchestown Festival and that is certainly the case this season. Hurricane Fly has won the race for the last three years on the spin and he is an odds on favourite to make it number four. The nine-year-old has racked up a remarkable amount of Grade 1 wins over his career with only one defeat to his name out of his last 13 races. It is hard to imagine him coming unstuck on Friday with the bookmakers rating him as short as 2/5 to claim the win, despite the fact one or two decent contenders are set to oppose him.
The biggest threat to Hurricane Fly at Punchestown is likely to come from Rock on Ruby. The Harry Fly in-mate is best known for his Champion Hurdle success at Cheltenham back in 2012 and on his day he is an exceptional horse. He ran really well at the festival last month only to get worn down up the hill by Hurricane Fly and connections will be hoping he can put the favourite under pressure once again. The conditions would be a worry for Rock On Ruby though with plenty of rain around in Punchestown this week likely to play against his chances.
Outside of the big two, it is hard to see the winner coming from elsewhere although Thousand Stars is capable of running a big race. The brave grey has chased home Hurricane Fly on a number of occasions and if he is near his best, he could well pick up some nice place money for connections. He is of course also trained by Willie Mullins as are Zaidpour and So Young who are also both set to take on their more illustrious stable-mate on Friday afternoon.
The other big race on the Friday card at the Punchestown Festival sees the highly rated Pont Alexandre and Un Atout clash in the Champion Novice Hurdle. Pont Alexandre was last seen finishing third in the Neptune at Cheltenham while the lightly raced Un Atout ran well to finish fourth in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. This race will be over 2m4f and should give punters some nice clues concerning the potential of both Willie Mullins horses going forward.
In truth though it is Hurricane Fly who is the main attraction on Friday at Punchestown with the racing world looking forward to seeing one of the true stars of the sport. Willie Mullins must take plenty of credit for the horses's consistency over the year's and we fully expect him to add yet another famous win to his bulging CV.