Willie Mullins may go up in trip with Hurricane Fly
Closutton trainer crowned champion for the ninth time on Saturday while stable jockey Ruby Walsh also lifts ninth title
Ruby Walsh returns on Annie Power with owner Rich Ricci (left) after winning Saturday’s Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
Hurricane Fly’s dominance at two miles might appear to be over but Willie Mullins is weighing up the pros and cons of stretching the Grade One world-record holder out to longer trips next season with the champion trainer predicting there are more top-flight races left in the legendary horse.
Mullins was crowned champion trainer for the ninth time on the final day of the 2013-14 season at Punchestown on Saturday and is targeting some more lucrative prizes in France over the coming weeks with Thousand Stars on course to run in next month’s French Champion Hurdle.
After finishing runner-up to Jezki on Friday, Hurricane Fly’s season is over but any career obituaries appear to be premature with Mullins confirming there are no plans to retire the 10-year-old who is just one shy of a benchmark 20th Grade One success.
“He’s only 10 and he’s still a relatively young horse in National Hunt terms and he is injury free. I think he’s still got one or two Grade Ones left in him and we might just go up in trip.
“He might have lost the dash he needs against younger horses at shorter trips but I would have no problem going out in trip with him,” he said yesterday.
“The older he’s got, the better he’s settling in his races and his body language the last day tells me he has settled down. Going up in trip may be the way to go. I certainly wouldn’t be writing him off just yet,” Mullins added.
Annie Power’s second to More Of That last March is the closest Mullins has got to winning the World Hurdle at Cheltenham and although Hurricane Fly isn’t being quoted in any ante-post lists for that race, his old rival Solwhit proved his versatility in 2013 when landing the three-mile Grade One.
Thousand Stars is already a dual winner of the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil and after his impressive recent success at Fairyhouse, he is likely to warm up for the big prize with another run in the Prix La Barka later this month.
“He seems to thrive on his racing so he’ll probably run in both races. Maybe Zaidpour could go to France as well,” Mullins said.
Mullins wound up a record-breaking campaign with 186 winners while his stable jockey Ruby Walsh was crowned champion jockey for the ninth time with 122 winners. Mullins’s son Patrick was champion amateur jockey for the seventh time with 42 successes. Kevin Sexton was champion conditional on 22 victories.
The battle for leading owner was eventually won by JP McManus who edged out Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud on prize-money on the final day of the season.