Horse Racing - O'Brien set to return to grade one hurdling

Istabraq fans will be waiting with baited breath on Sunday as Aidan O'Brien returns to the grade one hurdling sphere at Leopardstown.

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Horse Racing - O'Brien looking to rule the world with Derby winner
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Aidan O'Brien

Istabraq fans will be waiting with baited breath on Sunday as Aidan O'Brien returns to the grade one hurdling sphere at Leopardstown.

Ireland's champion flat trainer is lining up Plinth, like Istabraq owned by JP McManus, for a tilt at the Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on a cracking card with Cheltenham Festival clues aplenty on offer.

Istabraq's position in the National Hunt pantheon is secure after winning three consecutive Champion Hurdles between 1998-2000. A historic fourth was cruelly aborted when Cheltenham fell foul of foot and mouth in 2001.

Plinth has a long way to go to match those achievements but he looks progressive after winning his only start when he beat Ivan Grozny who has since franked the form at Naas. Plinth is currently trading at 16/1 for the Triumph Hurdle.

Elsewhere, the dream team of Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh will once again be looking for glory when they attempt to make it two wins from two on Irish soil for Tidal Bay.

Graham and Andrea Wylie's enigmatic 13-year-old won last year's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown and will try to follow up in Sunday's Hennessy Gold Cup at the same track.

He faces stiff opposition from Cheltenham Gold Cup hopeful's First Lieutenant, Last Instalment, Roi du Mee, Texas Jack, Lyreen Legend and 2013 RSA winner Lord Windemere.

With a long-awaited attempt on the Grand National the main plan, who can rule out another strong performance from Tidal Bay who was last seen when a gallant third in the Welsh National at Chepstow shouldering top weight.

The Godolphin Stud and Stable Award nominees were unveiled yesterday with the prizes set to be awarded on February 25th at the Jumeirah Carlton Hotel in London, hosted by Clare Balding.

Brough Scott, chairman of the judging panel, speaking to the Racing Post, said: "Once again, here are a real bunch of racing heroes. To be nominated is an achievement and to make it to the final stage is something to celebrate.

"They are all winners already. Along with the other judges I shall be honoured, and challenged, when talking to all of them at the end of the month."

On a quiet day on the track Venetia Williams continued her amazing run of form with two winners at Market Rasen, both ridden by Aidan Coleman.

The 2009 Grand National winning trainer had three winners at Sandown on Saturday. Rosa Fleet (7/1) and Panama Petrus (11/4) secured the Herefordshire handler her eighth winner in six days.

(c) Sportsbeat 2014

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