Hurricane set to fly for Mullins

Sat, Dec 29, 2012, 00:00

RACING:If it’s anything but a “Lucky 13” for Hurricane Fly in today’s Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown there will be shockwaves reverberating through the racing world.

Just five are scheduled to line up for the €85,000 final day festival feature, including last year’s winner Unaccompanied and Hurricane Fly’s stable-companion Thousand Stars.

That admirable grey is a dual-French Champion Hurdle winner and a real star in his own right but a peak-form Hurricane Fly is something else again.

Today will be his 16th consecutive start at Grade One level. Since finishing runner-up in the 2008 French Triumph Hurdle, he has won a dozen top-flight races, finishing third on the two occasions he failed to hit the bullseye.

That included last season’s failed Champion Hurdle defence but in terms of overall performance Hurricane Fly’s name ranks with the very top hurdling performers seen in Ireland in modern times.

Short price

Istabraq himself scored 14 Grade One victories during his illustrious career and Hurricane Fly could be sent off the shortest price he has ever been today, even less than the 4 to 11 he ended up at Punchestown last spring.

That ultimately didn’t compare with the very best performances that Willie Mullins’s superstar has put up over the years but the champion trainer was noticeably pleased with the way Hurricane Fly ran on his reappearance in last month’s Morgiana at Punchestown. “I was never happy with him last season. But he seems a different horse this year,” the champion trainer said.

Unaccompanied secured the second top-flight prize of her career in this race last year when having too many gears for Thousand Stars at a crucial stage of the race.

That represented a career-high for Dermot Weld’s mare but out-kicking Thousand Stars is one thing: managing to do the same to Hurricane Fly is another.

The Grade Three mares hurdle is the main support at Leopardstown with the Mullins team represented by both Zuzka and Glens Melody.

Patrick Mullins teams up with Zuzka who represents top-class form having finished a fine third to Jezki and Champagne Fever in the Royal Bond earlier in the month.

The form of her Limerick win before that has been franked since too.

However, she does have to concede 10lb to her four-year-old stable companion Glens Melody, a triple bumper winner, who scored easily at 1 to 8 odds at Clonmel last time.

If Zuzka is the proven article in these circumstances, Glens Melody is all about promise and she can successfully continue on the upgrade.

More suitable

Davy Russell has picked Si C’etait Vrai from three Gigginstown hopes in the Pertemps Qualifier and this company should be far more suitable for the former point-to-point winner than the Hatton’s Grace.

Lord Windermere disappointed slightly behind Mikael d’Haguenet at Punchestown but can make it third time lucky over fences in the Beginners Chase despite the presence of the former high class hurdlers The Real Article and Marsonnien.

Tarquinius looked to find the extreme distance at Fairyhouse too much to handle earlier this month and should be more at home dropped in trip for the opening Opportunity Chase under jockey Keith Donoghue.