Hurricane Fly simply brilliant in Rabobank Hurdle
Willie Mullins may now go for a Champion Hurdle hat-trick in France with his stable star
Hurricane Fly’s credentials to be ranked as one of the all-time great champions were impeccable before his latest Grade One triumph at Punchestown but rarely if ever has he proved the point more brilliantly.
Statistically a seven-length rout of his long-suffering stable-companion Thousand Stars in the Rabobank Champions Hurdle – with Rock On Ruby in third – was nothing the 1/4 favourite shouldn’t do.
But the style of it was enough to have Willie Mullins wondering if a shot at emulating the legendary Dawn Run by aiming at a Champion Hurdle hat-trick in France in June might be on the cards.
“I’ve no doubt he could do it (add the Auteuil crown to the English and Irish titles) and I’ve no doubt he’d stay the three miles. But I’ve two or three other horses for it and we’ll probably put him away. But it is in the back of my mind,” the champion trainer said.
The way Hurricane Fly sidestepped off the heels of the leaders on the turn-in, and then sauntered clear under a motionless Ruby Walsh, would encourage the idea he’s capable of most anything over hurdles.
Ladbrokes were impressed enough to cut the two-time Cheltenham champion, and now 16-time Grade One winner, to 3/1 favourite to claim a third Cheltenham crown next year, despite the emergence of new stars like Our Conor and Jezki.
“You’re always scared these younger horses can improve up to a stone whereas my horse isn’t going to do that. That’s his form,” said Mullins after this latest Punchestown Festival four-in-a-row for one of his star performers.
“But he did a piece of work on Saturday, along with Quevega, that was as good as he’s ever done. I just hope we can get him back in the same shape in the autumn and go down the same road,” he added.
Four behind rival
Ruby Walsh, wound up the day also winning on the Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux, but is four behind rival Davy Russell in the jockeys’ title race going into the final meeting. But yesterday was all about Hurricane Fly.
“He has four of these won and four Irish Champion Hurdles at Leopardstown. He’s exceptional. I know he’s only won twice at Cheltenham, but to be fair to the little horse, he’s probably never shown his true colours there,” he said. “He won ugly at Cheltenham – but this was classy.”
Davy Russell looks all but assured of retaining the jockeys title today and will look back on the Mullins-trained Grade One winners, Sir Des Champs and Un Atout, as crucial.
With Pont Alexandre taken out of the Tattersalls Champion Novice Hurdle due to lameness in the morning, Un Atout faced just two opponents and the odds-on favourite looked stuffed after the last when headed by Ubak.
However the three-parts brother to Sir Des Champs rallied admirably to score by a neck.
“I was delighted to see him come back like that. He missed a couple of days work last week with a stone bruise but he’s tough,” said Mullins who after yesterday’s hat-trick needs two more winners today to equal the dozen festival winners he notched in both 2009 and 2010.