Ireland will be looking to make a brilliant start to the 2014 Cheltenham Festival by taking the opening championship race of the week with Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
Last year’s winner is aiming to score in the 2m contest for a third time as he was also successful at Prestbury Park in 2011.
It has been a record-breaking year for Willie Mullins’ mount as he exceeded the highest number of Grade One victories in a horse’s career when he won the Morgiana Hurdle in November at Punchestown. That was his 18th victory at the highest level in what was his seasonal reappearance ahead of another shot at the Champion Hurdle near the end of the campaign.
In the Ryanair Hurdle in December, he took on a couple of last season’s top novices in Our Conor and Jezki and was able to hold them both off in a further Grade One win.
His final outing before the trip to Cheltenham came in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. He made no mistake in the race to record his fourth consecutive victory in the contest.
Hurricane Fly is currently in a battle with The New One as to who will go off as favourite in the Champion Hurdle market when the tape is released on Tuesday.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner has not been seen since finishing second in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. He was beaten by My Tent or Yours after a mistake at the last flight cost him the race of that occasion as it handed the momentum to his rival in the run in to the line.
The New One was the impressive winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in 2013 and is looking to make it back-to-back wins at the meeting himself against the more experienced horses this year.