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It’s fair to say talk of Echoes In Rain being a potential challenger to Honeysuckle for the Champion Hurdle title has gone cold in recent weeks.
Victory in last season’s Punchestown Festival Champion Novice Hurdle sparked suggestions that Willie Mullins had another gem at his yard. A couple of disappointing runs this campaign, however, has put paid to the idea that the six-year-old mare could mix it in the feature race on the opening day of this year’s Cheltenham extravaganza.
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Echoes In Rain finished 15l behind Sharjah in the Morgiana Hurdle on her seasonal reappearance in November before suffering a similar defeat in the Matheson Hurdle over Christmas.
She holds entries for the Champion Hurdle and Mares’ Hurdle, which was the subject of focus on the latest episode of our Cheltenham Countdown podcast series, but former jockey Ruby Walsh believes she should be targeted at the County Hurdle.
“I thought she’d fancy a bit further after the last day, which would add up to the County Hurdle,” our resident jockey-turned-pundit said. “Two miles and one furlong on the New Course will be a bit stiffer than the inside track over two miles at Leopardstown.
There is logic to Echoes In Rain being pitched in the County Hurdle as trainer Mullins has Appreciate It and Sharjah as his main Champion Hurdle rivals to Honeysuckle, while stablemates Stormy Ireland and Burning Victory are more prominent in our antepost betting for the Mares’ Hurdle.
When asked whether the Champion Hurdle project is off, Paddy’s top trader Frank Hickey remarked: “Oh definitely. The County Hurdle might be a different story.”
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