Last season it was virtually impossible to open a racing newspaper and not read the latest story about the news Irish hurdling sensation Dunguib, who won eight races in succession. This term Philip Fenton’s stable star has been conspicuous by his absence but will at last make his seasonal return at Gowran Park on Saturday having been confirmed an intended runner in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 15.
Dunguib has been kept off the course by one or two minor niggles and hasn’t been seen in public since finishing sixth to Hurricane Fly in the Grade 1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, a month after losing his unbeaten hurdles record when finishing just third (sent off at 4/5) in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the race won by one of this year’s Champion Hurdle favourites, Menorah.
The eight-year-old is set to line up for the Grade 2 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park over two miles, where he could meet the likes of the smart Luska lad and the talented Carlito Brigante, amongst others. Assuming all goes well at Gowran, Fenton has confirmed that he intends to send Dunguib to Cheltenham to tackle the big guns in the Champion Hurdle and has scrapped the idea of running his charge in the two-mile-five-furlong handicap, the Coral Cup. They’ll certainly be plenty of Cheltenham free bets placed on the horse in the big race.
Generally on offer at 20/1 for the Cheltenham hurdles crown, Dunguib’s odds would certainly be significantly trimmed should he win or run well on Saturday. Defending champion Binocular remains the 7/2 favourite to retain his title, Hurricane Fly and Menorah are both available at 5/1, Peddlers Cross is 11/2, Oscar Whisky and Mille Chief are offered at 14s, and it’s 20/1 bar.