View from connections ahead of Sunday's BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
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Hurricane Fly will have to put a late scare behind him when he bids to claim an historic fourth successive victory in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The record-breaking 18-times Grade One winner and dual Cheltenham Champion Hurdle hero put younger rivals Jezki and Our Conor firmly in their place with a typically brilliant display in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival, and now aims to join Istabraq by winning this prestigious prize four times.
However, the 10-year-old's preparation suffered a minor setback earlier this week and with Jezki and Our Conor back for more, trainer Willie Mullins admits his superstar will have to be right on his game with Ruby Walsh if he is to make it eight wins from as many starts at the Foxrock track this weekend.
"He worked poorly during the week and it turned out he had a bruise on his foot. He seems fine since, so we'll see how he goes," said Mullins.
"We could have taken the easy way out and not run, but at the end of the day it's the Irish Champion Hurdle. Sometimes athletes carry bits of injuries into games and we're happy to let him take his chance.
"I think he will need to reproduce his best form to win as I would expect both Jezki and Our Conor to come forward from the run at Christmas."
Reflecting on Hurricane Fly's Christmas triumph, Mullins said: "It was a fantastic race and tactically it was a great spectacle. Plans A, B and C went out of the window. We didn't envisage we were going to be last jumping the second hurdle and Captain Cee Bee would be 25 lengths in front jumping the third.
"It was a real cat and mouse game and Ruby was very cool. As good as the horse was, I thought Ruby was very good on him. He kept a very cool head in the circumstances. He is used to it I suppose."
The same trio do battle again, along with admirable veteran and likely front-runner Captain Cee Bee, but this time on a tighter circuit than the one they faced over the festive period.
Walsh feels the switch of track could play a crucial part in the outcome of the race.
"He hasn't won 18 Grade Ones for no reason. He's won them because he's a very, very good horse," Walsh told Racing UK. "On Sunday in Leopardstown we'll be on the inner track, which is a sharper, speedier track. If you look at it coldly, it probably suits me a bit better. You'd be hoping Hurricane is going to hold them off again."
The Dessie Hughes-trained Our Conor was beaten almost six lengths into third by Hurricane Fly last month on his first appearance over hurdles since his runaway Triumph Hurdle display last March.
Owner Barry Connell said: "We've been very happy with him since the run at Christmas. He's had a clear run and everything looks to be in order.
"He should strip a bit fitter and hopefully he'll be a bit more competitive, so we'll see. He jumped upsides Hurricane Fly at the last at Christmas, so we have to look forward to taking him on again.
"Hurricane Fly is unbeaten at Leopardstown, so we know he's going to be hard to beat, but we'll do our best and we know our ultimate aim is Cheltenham."
Our Conor will once again be partnered by Connell's retained jockey Danny Mullins, who said: "To be going down to the last upsides (Hurricane) Fly was a great performance for a young horse. It will be a great race again. We're the ones who need to step up - we were third of the three big ones - but we're happy with him at home and fingers crossed we'll have a better run.
"Hopefully we might be able to reverse the placings."
Jezki made an excellent start to the season by winning at Down Royal and Fairyhouse and split Hurricane Fly and Our Conor at Leopardstown.
Jessica Harrington's six-year-old was beaten two and a half lengths and may have finished even closer had he not been hampered early in the straight.
Harrington said: "I have been delighted with him since Christmas. Maybe he was a bit unlucky there, but he ran a very good race and it was the first time he had come up against that class of horse.
"His preparation has gone very well and we will have to wait to see if he can get closer to Hurricane Fly - it all depends on luck in running and how the race goes."
Jezki's jockey Tony McCoy acknowledges Hurricane Fly sets a very high standard.
"He was a bit unlucky Hurricane Fly was running against him - like most of the other horses have been for the last few years," said the champion jockey. "He'll obviously need to improve, because Hurricane Fly won pretty well."