Hurricane Fly heads a stellar cast for the Grade 1 BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday 29 January.
The eight-year-old delighted Willie Mullins in a gallop at Leopardstown on Thursday and he could be joined by stable companions Mikael D’Haguenet, Thousand Stars, So Young and Zaidpour.
Unaccompanied and Voler La Vedette, impressive winners of their respective contests at the Christmas Festival here last month, are both likely runners, although Colm Murphy has indicated that Voler La Vedette would only take her chance provided the ground was soft.
He explained: "She has come out of her run at Christmas in great shape and I wouldn’t be afraid to drop her back in trip, but I’d say she will only run if the ground is soft. She has won her Grade 1 this season which was great and she is settling much better in her races this year."
Dermot Weld reports Unaccompanied to be on target to take on her elders for the second time this season. He said: "She has come out of her last run very well, but the Irish Champion will be a learning curve for her. Hurricane Fly will be very hard to beat, but she has won two Grade 1s and I was delighted with the way she won last month."
He went on: "She is only five and is still improving. She has strengthened up well this season, so we’ll let her take her chance and then we’ll see where we’ll go with her for the rest of the season."
Oscars Well, third to Unaccompanied in the Festival Hurdle and a dual Grade 1 winner last season, will also take his chance.
Nicky Henderson could run either Binocular or Spirit Son. The latter hasn’t run since he defeated Cue Card at Aintree last season and Henderson revealed: "We won’t rule them in or out. I’ll speak to JP about Binocular and he has been very well since Kempton.
Spirit Son is also very well, but it really depends on what happens over here. The ground will be a factor as well, but we may well run one of them. We’ll make up our minds a bit closer to the time."
Bog Warrior, the highest rated novice chaser in Ireland this season, appears amongst the seventeen entries for the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase. The eight year old took a crashing fall in a Grade 1 event here last month, but he has since been reported to be in good shape by his trainer Tony Martin.
Flemenstar, a runaway winner at Navan in November, is engaged to run at Naas on Sunday and Francis Casey representing his father Peter said, "He seems to be in great form and I think he has improved since Navan.
"He runs at the weekend and he’ll have to win there to run in the Arkle. We’ll also put him in the Dr. PJ Moriarty Chase, but we’ll see how he gets on Sunday first though.”
Not surprisingly, Willie Mullins is well represented. Recent Grade 1 winner Blackstairmountain has been pencilled in for the Grade 1 event alongside stable companions Sir Des Champs and Call The Police.