Arctic Fire fire chalks up first win since 2017 Cheltenham Festival
Willie Mullins Grade One star, now with Denis Cullen, victorious at Cork
Arctic Fire returned to winning ways at Cork on Monday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The former top-class hurdler was retired by champion trainer Willie Mullins and his owner Nick Peacock earlier this year, only for Peacock to have a change of heart and return the nine-year-old to training with Denis Cullen.
He made his first competitive appearance in well over a year in a two-and-a-half-mile conditions race at Cork last month and after shaping with plenty of promise to finish third, Arctic Fire was the 11-8 favourite to regain winning ways on his return to the track in this three-mile contest.
Denis O’Regan cut a confident figure in the saddle throughout, with Arctic Fire jumping notably well, and after looming up to join Flaxen Flare in the straight he kicked clear for a decisive eight-length win.
Cullen revealed Arctic Fire is likely to return to Grade One level in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December — a race he won in 2015.
Cullen said: “He ran a cracker on his comeback run recently and has taken a step forward from that run.
“He won nicely and we’ll have a look at the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle now.
“I had half a notion we’d go jumping fences, but he’s doing OK over hurdles and we might stay there for the minute.”
He added: “His jumping was very good and I didn’t need to do much schooling with him — when a fella goes into sixth class you don’t start teaching him how to read and write! He knows how to do it so I leave it to him, but I gave him a pop just to make sure his eye was in.
“Denis O’Regan was good on him and he learned a lot from riding him the last time.
“Obviously when he came to me it was a case of taking one day at a time and if he’s healthy he’ll keep going. I had a girl, Louise Lynne, who was waiting in the wings to ride him in the racehorses-to-riding class at the RDS (Dublin Horse Show), but it’s all going great now.
“I don’t the full extent of why or for what reason (Arctic Fire was retired). Obviously the horse’s welfare comes first and is paramount, but he has shown no reason why he shouldn’t be in training, as he is sound, fit and well and is enjoying what he is doing.”
Arctic Fire won five of his 19 starts over jumps for Mullins, including the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March of last year.
He was also placed in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown behind esteemed former stable companions Faugheen and Hurricane Fly.