With the vibes about Hurricane Fly more negative than David Bailey's darkroom, the focus can sharpen on Monday's Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Ireland's reigning two-mile hurdle champion has yet to race this season but, though he is among the entries for next week's Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown, his fans may have to wait a while longer for a sighting if the betting bush telegraph is a guide.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was initially installed at 8-11 for the Grade One contest a week today but had drifted to evens as the money came yesterday for his own stablemate Thousand Stars, the progressive grey who proved a successful supersub for Closutton when the yard's star striker defected last month from another top Irish contest, the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
Thousand Stars is now 2-1 from 7-2 for the Leopardstown feature. "We just can't lay 'The Fly' at the moment," said Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power, "and the dough for Thousand Stars includes a large cash bet from a connected punter." There was no reaction from the Mullins stable, but Hurricane Fly, though hugely talented, has a history of physical fragility. He has won his last six contests – most recently when accounting for Thousand Stars and Binocular at Punchestown in May – but has raced only nine times in three years.
He remains favourite to retain the Cheltenham crown in March, but the door may now be swinging ajar for the home side to regroup. Among the seven entries yesterday for the Kempton Boxing Day race were the trio vying for favouritism, the 2010 champion Binocular, his old rival Overturn and the upwardly mobile Rock On Ruby.
Binocular beat Overturn on Boxing day last year; Overturn – who has been busier than a reindeer in recent weeks – gained his revenge in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last month, his first Grade One success. Rock On Ruby, one of last year's best novices, is untested at the highest level as a senior but the Oscar six-year-old was impressive in victory at Newbury last month, when he gave weight and a 10-length beating to Raya Star, the winner of Saturday's valuable handicap at Ascot.
The Grade One Boxing Day warm-up before the King George VI Chase is completed by the Feltham Chase, a novice contest most recently taken (in 2009, last year it was snowed off) by Long Run. Two of this term's most exciting recruits, Grands Crus (whose three-year-old brother Gevrey Chambertin won easily on his debut at Ffos Las yesterday) and Bobs Worth, head the market.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Hodgson (3.40 Hereford) Trainer-jockey combination has a one-in-three strike rate in this type of contest.
Thoughtsofstardom (12.30 Southwell) Veteran of 158 races who has never been lower in the ratings and could be worth a chance at a long price after a pipe-opener for the all-weather campaign two weeks ago.
One to watch
Super Villan (Lawney Hill) ran better than his sixth place at Ascot on Saturday might indicate and a first victory should not be far off.
Where the money's going
Somersby was yesterday's King George VI Chase mover, cut from 14-1 to 11-1 by the Tote for the Boxing Day race.