Preview Leopardstown 27th Jan

Sat 26th Jan 2013, 13:00

©Healy Racing Photos

It's a battle of former Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winners at Leopardstown as Hurricane Fly and Binocular lock horns in the feature race at the Foxrock venue, the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle.

Willie Mullins' Hurricane Fly, the 2011 winner at Cheltenham, has looked in imperious form again this season, winning a Grade One over this track and trip with ease over the Christmas period.

The 2010 champion Binocular has been off the track since finishing fourth in last year's edition of the Prestbury Park event, one place behind Hurricane Fly, and will need to be at his very best.

Thousand Stars and Captain Cee Bee are far from no-hopers, but the race is surely about the big two.

Pont Alexandre gets the chance to extend his unbeaten record in the Grade Two Synergy Security Solutions Novice Hurdle.

Already a winner over timber in France before joining Mullins, he stepped straight into Grade One company on his debut on these shores and won with aplomb.

Recent hurdle winners Anonis and Sizing Gold are likely to have bright futures and can challenge, while Our Vinnie is no stranger to the winner's enclosure either.

Six of the nine runners in the Frank Ward Solicitors Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle won on their last start, and the pick of those could be Punchestown scorer Way Up In The Air.

She looked well worth a crack in this Listed company after her latest success, though Oscars Joy, Annie Oakley and Zuzka all pose serious threats.

The meeting kicks off at 12.25 with the Frank Conroy Memorial Maiden Hurdle, in which Urano bids to make it third time lucky over timber.

Blackmail has shown plenty of promise so far and bids to build on that in the Donohoe Marquees (Pro/Am) Flat Race, while Talbot Road, Shariyan and Crocus Bay all hold claims in the Tote Price Promise Handicap Hurdle.

GRAND NATIONAL - The Northern Challenge

The Sue Smith-trained Auroras Encore was the last northern-trained horse to win the Grand National back in 2013 but recent victories for that part of the country have been thin on the ground since the likes of Lucius, Rubstic and Hallo Dandy in the late 70s early 80’s showed that steeplechasing was in a healthy state north of the Watford Gap with the likes of Gordon W Richards, Denys Smith, Arthur Stephenson, Peter Easterby and Jimmy Fitzgerald capable of holding their own against their southern and Irish counterparts.