Hurricane Fly heads a select field of just four runners for Sunday's Dobbins & Madigans At Punchestown Morgiana Hurdle.
Willie Mullins' charge lost his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March but bounced back to winning form at this venue in April. While the champion trainer has not enjoyed an ideal start to the campaign, with a few horses coughing in his yard, he is satisfied Hurricane Fly is fit enough to do himself justice.
"Hurricane Fly worked well the other day and I'm happy with him. I'd imagine Christmas time (would be his next run after the weekend), but we'll try to take one day at a time. We're slow enough getting out this season. We're getting into gear very slowly now," Mullins told At The Races.
"I'm hoping they stay right. A few were coughing. We had to stop for about a fortnight. I just didn't want to work too many of the horses. That held us up a little bit but, fortunately, it seemed to be the fillies that got sick. One or two of the horses did, but I think that's all gone out of the yard now.
"If we can just keep them right I'd be hoping for the best."
The fact Go Native is even competing in Grade One races again is testament to his trainer Noel Meade. He was sent off favourite for the 2010 Champion Hurdle but sustained an injury and did not return until October, when third in a Flat race, after which he bolted up in a similar event at Galway.
"He seems very well, so we'll have a go at a Grade One. I've been very happy with him at home, and I hope he keeps on improving as he did from his first race back to his second. He was very good the last day but we could do without the rain," said County Meath-based Meade.
Captain Cee Bee has been enjoying something of a resurgence since reverting to hurdles. The Eddie Harty-trained 11-year-old turned in an excellent effort when third in the Galway Hurdle in August before claiming Grade Two glory at Tipperary last month.
"It's a competitive enough race with Hurricane Fly and Go Native in there. They will be hard to beat, but our horse is in good form and he won well in Tipperary last time. He's been a great horse for us over the years. We think he will run well and give a good account of himself," said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.
Dermot Weld's classy dual-purpose runner Unaccompanied completes the Morgiana line-up.
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