Hurricane completes hat-trick for Mullins and Walsh
Hurricane Fly received mixed reactions from bookmakers for the Stan James Champion Hurdle after his successful reappearance at Punchestown.
The 2011 Cheltenham hero made all of the running in the Dobbins Madigans At Punchestown Morgiana Hurdle, but only after Go Native took a crashing fall at the final flight.
Paul Carberry brought Go Native to challenge the 2 to 5 favourite when Noel Meade’s nine-year-old came down on his first run over hurdles for 978 days.
That left the only other finisher, Captain Cee Bee, to take second spot, some 12 lengths behind the winner, who was recording his sixth course and distance triumph.
Hurricane Fly was completing a hat-trick on the day for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh after their wins with Twinlight and Back in Focus earlier on the card.
Mullins also had a double at Cork.
“It looked like there was going to be no pace today and we felt we would have to make it (the running),” said the Co Carlow handler. “We weren’t worried about the trip or ground. All we were really worried about was facing two rivals who were race fit.
“As he gets older he seems to settle better and hopefully he’ll improve from that. He’s certainly a different horse to last year. I was not happy with him last season. We’ll look at Leopardstown at Christmas now and the plan will be that, the Irish Champion and Cheltenham as the races are well spread out. He’ll be entered up in everything.”
Hurricane Fly remained unchanged as 11 to 2 favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle with the sponsors, but was eased to 5 to 1 from 4s with Ladbrokes.
Twinlight (9 to 1) put up a game display when making virtually all of the running in the AGK Displays Craddockstown Novice Chase.
This Grade Two heat was reduced to a match between the winner and Baily Green after the 8 to 15 favourite Oscars Well fell at the second fence and the other runner, Jenari, was soon detached.
An untidy jump at the last appeared to let in Baily Green, but Twinlight rallied in determined fashion to end the latter’s seven-race winning streak and complete his own hat-trick with a length verdict. “He’s improving all the time and getting confident. Ruby said he’s getting to know him as he has his own method of jumping,” said Mullins. “I’d say he loves this ground. We’ll have to see where we go from here, but he’s fit and well and very tough.”
Back in Focus (2 to 5 favourite) followed up his debut win over fences at Listowel with another pleasing performance as he defeated Lyreen Legend by four lengths.
“He’s a tough horse and loves that ground. He wants every yard of that trip and we’ll go the long distance route with him,” said Mullins.
“The three-mile Grade One novice chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting is probably the race for him.”
Walsh said: “He’s a tough horse, he keeps galloping and stays forever. I thought Lyreen Legend was the one we had to beat and I had a look to see where he was. He’s relentless and keeps galloping away.”
Road To Riches looked a smart recruit for owners Gigginstown House Stud and trainer Noel Meade when making a successful jumps debut. The five-year-old, a point-to-point and bumper winner, justified his prohibitive odds of 1 to 6 with a cosy two-and-a-quarter-length success in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle under Davy Russell.
“He did what we hoped he would do. Davy let him roll along as he was jumping so well and he didn’t want to take him back,” said Meade.
“All going well he’ll go for the Grade One novice hurdle at Navan next month. He’s a horse that will always want two and a half miles and further.”
The Gigginstown colours were also carried to victory by the Gordon Elliott-trained Beef To The Heels (4 to 1), ridden by 7lb claimer Jane Mangan, in the Punchestown On TG4 At 9.20 Next Saturday Handicap Hurdle.