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Man On The Spot previews all of the action from Sunday's Irish Champion Hurdle card at Leopardstown.
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POWDER HOUND, winner of a Class 2 handicap at Chester for Andrew Balding in September, made a highly encouraging hurdles debut at Fairyhouse behind the potentially very useful Abbyssial, who like the third Windsor Queen won next time out. Noel Meade's charge can go one better though Rock The World has been coming up against some very smart novices in huge fields and won't go down without a battle. Todd is held by the selection on a line through Windsor Queen but Little Rocky produced a cracking effort behind the unbeaten Clondaw Court here last month and can also get involved in a race that should provide plenty of future winners.
There have been some terrific winners of this in recent years and this season's entry looks well up to scratch. Defy Logic couldn't quite get to FELIX YONGER at Punchestown in November but enjoyed the softer conditions when beating Trifolium in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase here on St Stephens Day. Though surprisingly beaten by stablemate The Paparrazi Kid in softer ground over a longer trip at Limerick where he didn't jump as well, Ruby Walsh's mount is better than that and compensation awaits. Mallowney was beaten seven lengths by Mozoltov on his chasing bow at Fairyhouse then beat the useful Ned Buntline at Naas but will struggle to reverse form with the Mullins' novice, who is a threat to his stablemate.
Slew Charm was fortunate to win at Downpatrick as Hold Em Cowboy would have won easily but for tipping up. But the latter has gained compensation so the form should stand up. TREAT YOURSELF was having just his fourth start over fences when narrowly beaten by the in-form Luke's Benefit at Naas and Arthur Moore's dual hurdles winner can go one better. Character Actor wasn't far behind in that latter race and should get involved but Golden Ticket had every chance and looks held. Barney's Honour is 21lb higher than his last winning mark over fences while The Way We Were looks held on a line through Luke's Benefit. Heavenly Way probably ran his best race over fences at Naas last week though it wasn't much of a contest.
Three of the brightest stars of Irish jumping face each other for the second time in a month in a fascinating contest. The great champion HURRICANE FLY gained the 18th Grade 1 victory of his remarkable career in the Ryanair here last month when the young pretenders Jezki and Our Conor were left trailing in his wake. The fact that the placed pair take him on again speaks volumes for the confidence their connections have of toppling the champion. It was a tactical affair when the trio, plus long-time leader Captain Cee Bee, met last time and the chief sufferer was Jezki, who was boxed in by Our Conor as Hurricane Fly swept by. Whether he would have had the gears to go with the winner is another matter and it could be Our Conor who is more of a threat. Unlike his rivals, he hadn't had a recent run over jumps to put him straight and he only faded on the run-in so he should strip fitter this time. The champion is taken to consolidate his position though if Captain Cee Bee is ridden with more restraint there could be a different outcome.
Jessica Harrington likes this race and has won it twice recently while Willie Mullins has been successful in the last two. The former is represented by Mr Fiftyone, who wasn't quite up to the task in this grade behind Vautour at Punchestown. The champion trainer has Sure Reef engaged and though potentially useful he'll need to show great improvement from his maiden victory over the course and distance. Double Irish had run poorly on his first two starts over timber but it was a different matter here last month when he was a very impressive winner over a decent field of maidens. Gallant Tipp overcame jumping problems to score over 3m at Thurles and, though he looked fortunate, there is plenty more to come from him as there is from winning point-to-pointer and bumper Wounded Warrior, another who overcame mistakes to score at Navan. MOONSHINE LAD would have been chasing a five-timer but for falling at Fairyhouse and could hardly have been more impressive last time on heavy ground at Limerick. This is tougher but he's given the nod to continue his progress.
Tabhachtach was very unlucky when coming to grief at the last at Navan with the race in safe-keeping. To compound the misery he's been raised 6lb though his rider's claim takes care of the extra. WRONG TURN, who had fallen on his two previous starts after scoring at Killarney, had today's rival Mackeys Forge a neck behind over the course and distance last month but would have won more comfortably but for interference. He's gone up 8lb and should confirm the form and take this. Hold Em Cowboy looks a big threat despite a 10lb rise for scoring at Fairyhouse as he's in very good shape at present. Sterling Stuff hasn't had much racing and has failed to complete in two of his last three but he won the other in great style and is a danger to all if getting round.
Killer Crow is certain to attract attention though his pedigree looks more about chasing. Tony Martin does well with ex-pointers so the Ballydurn winner Marinero, who cost £72,000 at the Sales, is one to note though he's another bred for jumping fences. Kalanisi King has more genuine pace in his pedigree than most but this looks one for experience and PRINCELY CONN fits the bill. He showed the benefit of his opening run with a fine effort behind Black Hercules at Punchestown and the winner landed a much better race at Thurles on Thursday. Windsor Park has done nothing wrong though the form of last month's run behind Noble Endeavour on this track hasn't worked out so far. Fearachain is by no means out of this having finished runner-up to Chapel Garden at Navan with the remainder in a different parish.