Can Vroum Vroum do what Quevega couldn’t at Punchestown?
Willie Mullins has held something of a stranglehold over the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in recent times, saddling five of the last six winners.
His only blip in this period was when a declining Hurricane Fly was outperformed by Jezki in a poorly-attended race in 2014, when only three runners lined up.
Mullins is responsible for two of the six entrants in 2016, although there is no Annie Power following her victories in the Cheltenham equivalent of this contest and then at Aintree.
Instead, it is the yard’s regularly-referred-to second-string mare Vroum Vroum Mag that has been thrust into the limelight in a bid to become the first female winner of this race.
Since 2000, six females have lined up for this high-profile 2m contest and only one has even managed to fill the places. That was the biggest wondermare of them all, Quevega, back in 2009 when arguably at the peak of her powers.
However, despite being sent off as the 2/1 joint favourite with eventual winner Solwhit, Quevega never truly looked to have the speed to threaten. She would go on to prove that 2m4f was her optimum trip.
Vroum Vroum Mag remains unbeaten in all nine starts since moving to the Mullins yard from France, but is another that has so far been run predominantly over middle distances. Furthermore, she has been kept to female-only contests.
It looks a big ask for the talented and versatile seven-year-old nonetheless, on a first start against the boys and over a speed trip when she has been more inclined to go up in distance to 3m to date.
Her opposition are not out of the second tier either, with Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours seeking a first victory for over two years, Identity Thief chasing a second Grade 1 success of the season and stablemate Sempre Medici looking to bounce back after underperforming at Cheltenham.
Odds of 6/4 on a Vroum Vroum Mag victory look plenty short enough based on what she has proven so far, but plenty doubted the speed and ability of Annie Power before her Cheltenham triumph. This will give a better indication to how good her deputy actually is.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.