Hurricane hard to oppose
Ashley Iveson has a tip for every race in the UK and Ireland on Sunday, with Hurricane Fly set to take centre stage.
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LEOPARDSTOWN: 1.00 Powder Hound, 1.30 Defy Logic, 2.00 Heavenly Brook, 2.35 Hurricane Fly, 3.10 Double Irish, 3.40 Wrong Turn, 4.10 Killer Crow.
SEDGEFIELD: 1.10 Great Choice, 1.40 Swatow Typhoon, 2.10 Sam Lord, 2.45 TAHITI PEARL (NAP), 3.20 Willie Hall, 3.50 Pistol Basc, 4.20 Con Forza.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 1.50 Mahon Falls, 2.20 Parisian Pyramid, 2.55 Fat Gary, 3.30 Waving, 4.00 Oratorio's Joy, 4.30 Storey Hill, 5.00 Supa Seeker.
DOUBLE: Tahiti Pearl and Willie Hall.
The BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle takes centre stage on a magnificent card at Leopardstown on Sunday and the brilliant Hurricane Fly is fully expected to secure a fourth successive victory in the Grade One contest.
The dual Champion Hurdle hero was not that impressive on his seasonal return in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, and many felt he faced his toughest examination yet on home soil when tackled by young pretenders Our Conor and Jezki in last month's Ryanair Hurdle.
However, the Willie Mullins-trained superstar silenced any remaining doubters with an ultimately emphatic victory, showing a marvellous turn of foot to seal the deal in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Our Conor and Jezki reoppose this weekend and both camps have suggested there are reasons to believe the gap can be lessened, if not overhauled.
Our Conor was having his first run over obstacles since his jaw-dropping Triumph Hurdle success of last March and improvement is expected, while Jezki met with some trouble in running at a crucial stage.
But Hurricane Fly is seven from seven at Leopardstown and team Mullins appear in confident mood that he can join the legendary Istabraq, the only previous four-times Irish Champion Hurdle winner.
Defy Logic would be a popular winner of the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase for trainer Paul Nolan.
The seven-year-old was a bumper winner early in his career and won once from three starts over hurdles, also chasing home potential star Annie Power on another occasion.
The free-going gelding looked the part on his chasing debut at Naas at the end of October and although he was firmly put in his place by Felix Yonger at Punchestown next time, he looked much more at home back on a left-handed track when running at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival.
Whether he would have beaten Champagne Fever had the latter not made a serious error at the second last is open to debate, but the fences are there to be jumped and Defy Logic jumped the majority with real panache to put the seal on a memorable Grade One victory.
Mullins fields Felix Yonger and Mozoltov this time, but if Defy Logic produces a similar display to the one he produced a month ago, he will take plenty of pegging back.
Elsewhere, Tahiti Pearl deserves to get back on the winning trail in the Frazer Hines & John O'Loan Handicap Chase at Sedgefield.
Four consecutive runner-up finishes for the Sue Smith-trained 10-year-old might suggest he is not putting it all in, but, in fact, he is as honest as the day is long.
He ran a very respectable race when chasing home Noble Legend at Wetherby on Boxing Day, his most recent start, and his Sedgefield record of four wins and a second from seven starts adds further confidence.
He looks bound to be in the thick of the action once again.
Willie Hall could enjoy himself over a slightly shorter trip in the Horse Racing Free Bets At bookmakers.co.uk Handicap Hurdle.
Willie Amos' 10-year-old has done well since returning to the hurdling ranks and was not beaten too far in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase here a few weeks ago.
Amos' inmate grew weary on the heavy ground late on, though, which probably explains why connections have gone down in distance by a quarter of a mile.
He remains reasonably handicapped on his best form.
It will be interesting to see how Great Choice gets on in the Betfred Novices' Hurdle.
The Irish point-to-point recruit has had one start for David Pipe, when an encouraging second in an informative Uttoxeter bumper which evidenced his ability to handle testing conditions.
That should serve him well on his hurdling bow, with Pipe having notably swerved several other entries closer to home in preference for this long journey north.
Waving looks the one in the 32Red Handicap at Wolverhampton.
Trained in Worcestershire by Tony Carroll, the five-year-old showed at Kempton last time that there are signs of a revival following a lengthy losing run.
Despite having been pinched for room a furlong from home, Waving stayed on earnestly to take third spot over a mile and a half to suggest this longer distance might be just the ticket.
Carroll's imate is 20lb lower than when last successful in February 2013 and can take full advantage now he is seemingly coming to hand.
Fat Gary did not seem entirely happy at Kempton but should be more in his element in the Compare Bookmakers at bookmakers.co.uk Handicap.
The four-year-old has done most of his best work at Dunstall Park and is just 2lb higher than when he won here in November.
Tom Dascombe's chestnut was a bit stop-start over six at Kempton, but he was still only worried out of it late in the day.
Fat Gary, who is a two-time course-and-distance winner, should always enter the equation in this grade.