Hurricane Fly keeps young pretenders at bay

Champion hurdler too good for Jezki and Our Conor at Leopardstown

Hurricane Fly ridden by Ruby Walsh (right) races to the finish to win the Ryanair Hurdle during day four of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Hurricane Fly ridden by Ruby Walsh (right) races to the finish to win the Ryanair Hurdle during day four of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Hurricane Fly brilliantly defended his title in a star-studded renewal of the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old (11-10 favourite) expertly lowered the colours of Our Conor and Jezki, two of Ireland’s leading hurdlers, with another ruthless display under Ruby Walsh.

Hurricane Fly has now won an extraordinary 18 races in Grade One company and was roundly cut in the betting for the Champion Hurdle — a race he won so convincingly in the spring — at the Cheltenham Festival next March.

Jezki (15-8) fared best of the young pretenders when finishing a slightly unlucky second in the five-runner Grade One over two miles.

Despite being prominent in the market for the Champion Hurdle, neither Our Conor nor Jezki could match the finishing kick of Hurricane Fly.

Laudable veteran Captain Cee Bee set a fierce pace under Mark Walsh, but he was unable to maintain such a rapid tempo and weakened two flights from home.

Hurricane Fly, who did not impress many when victorious in Punchestown’s Morgiana Hurdle on his seasonal bow, was at the back of the field for most of the journey before he slalomed into contention late in the piece.

Mullins’ ace jumped the last a fraction behind Our Conor, who along with Captain Cee Bee had earlier squeezed Jezki for room approaching the final flight.

Whereas Our Conor did not have much more to give, Jezki stayed on stoutly for jockey Tony McCoy.

Hurricane Fly was hardly knocked off his stride, though, and maintained a zesty gallop to ease home for another landmark success.

Carlingford Lough then seized the day in a blockbuster finish to the Topaz Novice Chase.

The John Kiely-trained seven-year-old forged clear of Morning Assembly along the run-in to provide Tony McCoy with another Grade One success.

Bright New Dawn and My Murphy had made most of the running, but Morning Assembly, the 11-8 favourite, travelled better than that duo and took the lead at the last fence under Walsh.

Pat Fahy’s Grade One-winning novice looked set fair for another top-level success, but McCoy’s mount had been spotted making encouraging progress three out.

Carlingford Lough (5-1) emerged from the chasing pack after the last and threw down a sustained effort which yielded a narrow verdict at the line.

Theatre Bird (14-1) gamely made all of the running to take Grade Three honours in the IFG EBF Mares Hurdle over two and a half miles.

Sean Doyle’s five-year-old fended off the rather one-paced challenge of 10-11 favourite Upsie, who wilted after the last flight and failed to even make the frame.

Caoimhe’s Delight finished second at odds of 33-1, but Bryan Cooper’s companion was well on top at the line.

Sea Light landed a bit of a touch in the Mongey Communications Novice Handicap Hurdle.

The Charles Byrnes-trained five-year-old brought up a hat-trick here three days ago and again looked the essence of vitality under Davy Russell.

Sea Light, the heavily-backed 4-5 favourite, gained a definitive lead at the top of the home straight and never looked like relinquishing his advantage following a decent jump at the last.

Runner-up Roman General gave chase, but it was all in vain as he finished three and a half lengths adrift of the in-form winner.

Shanahan’s Turn (2-1 joint-favourite) turned in a most accomplished display to claim the Ryanair Maiden Hurdle.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Andrew Lynch, the Irish point-to-point recruit readily accounted for Blue Bicycle in what looked quite an informative heat.

Stoney nudged into the front two flights from home after Masterofdeception had initiated a fair pace.

But his position of authority was short-lived as Shanahan’s Turn glided into a lead which stretched to four and three-quarters of a length by the winning line.

Wrong Turn survived a lengthy stewards’ inquiry to win the opening Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase.

The Tony Martin-trained 5-1 joint-favourite defeated Mackeys Forge by a neck, but there was scrimmaging after the two horses jumped the last in unison.

Although Wrong Turn and Mackeys Forge got close along the run-in, the stewards left the places unaltered.

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