Trainer Willie Mullins is hoping his mare can raise her game on Friday after suffering defeat at Cheltenham to Apple’s Jade in the Mares’ Hurdle
VROUM VROUM MAG is back to defend her Punchestown Champion Hurdle crown on Friday.
The mare is one of five representatives for trainer Willie Mullins who has won six of the last seven renewals of the Grade 1.
Vroum Vroum Mag has been beaten twice this season, finding Apple’s Jade too strong in both the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse and the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
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However, Mullins is hopeful she can raise her game on Friday.
He said: “Vroum Vroum Mag didn’t have a perfect preparation for Cheltenham after coming back a bit sick from Doncaster, so I’d be hopeful that she might be able to find some improvement from that run.”
Ruby Walsh has sided with Vroum Vroum Mag over her four stable companions.
Paul Townend retains the ride on County Hurdle hero Arctic Fire, while Danny Mullins partners recent Fairyhouse scorer Diakali.
Katie Walsh steers Ivan Grozny and the trainer’s son, Patrick Mullins, gets the leg up on Wicklow Brave.
Mullins said of Arctic Fire: “He surprised us at Cheltenham. We hoped he’d run well, but we didn’t think he’d do what he did.
“With that in mind, we’d be hopeful he could improve a bit from the run.”
Henry de Bromhead saddles the Gigginstown House Stud-owned pair of Petit Mouchoir and Identity Thief.
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Petit Mouchoir won both the Ryanair Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown before finishing third in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Identity Thief was runner-up to Vroum Vroum Mag in last year’s renewal, but has has a troubled campaign, losing his way over fences before finishing tailed off in the Aintree Hurdle.
“I was delighted with Petit Mouchoir at Cheltenham. They seemed to go past him quite easily, but he stuck at it well,” De Bromhead told At The Races.
“With that in mind, the sharper test at Punchestown might not suit him quite as well, but we’ll see.
“Identity Thief has obviously been disappointing in his last few runs, which is baffling me as he seems in super form at home.
“He seemed in especially good form before he went to Aintree and he really disappointed there.
“Maybe it was too much of an ask for him to go into that sort of company for his first run back over hurdles, but even considering that the hope would have been for him to run better than he did.
“We might change tactics and ride him quietly with the aim of getting him to at least finish out his race.”
Nicky Henderson’s admirable veteran My Tent Or Yours is sent into battle again after finding only stablemate Buveur D’Air too strong in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Aintree Hurdle.
He is joined by fellow Seven Barrows inmate Brain Power.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Labaik has been declared after he failed to jump off on terms in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday.
With Jack Kennedy partnering Tombstone, Davy Russell rides Labaik for the first time and he will also be fitted with a visor.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said: “He’s Jack’s ride and will still be Jack’s ride after Friday, but we needed to try something different and Davy Russell will ride him on Friday.
“I can’t guarantee that he is going to start on Friday, but hopefully he will and when he does he’s a very good horse.”
Rashaan, trained by Colin Kidd, completes the 12-strong field.