Hurricane Fly targets four-in-a-row in Irish Champion Hurdle

Seven horses have been entered for the Leopardstown highlight at the end of the month

Hurricane Fly and Ruby Walsh  on their way to winning the Ryanair Hurdle during day four of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.

Hurricane Fly and Ruby Walsh on their way to winning the Ryanair Hurdle during day four of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.

 

horse of the year emulates the old hero by securing four-in-a-row in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle in over three weeks’ time.

Just seven horses have been entered for the Leopardstown highlight at the end of the month but they include both Jezki and Our Conor, who chased home Hurricane Fly when he secured an 18th Grade One success at the Dublin track over Christmas.

Anyone who felt the powers of the current Champion Hurdle title-holder might be waning were disabused of the notion in style in that Ryanair Hurdle, after which Willie Mullins insisted there is more improvement to come from one of the all-time great hurdlers trained in Ireland.

“He seems to be in great form and he has come out of his race at Christmas well. This race was always the plan for him and I think there is a bit more improvement to come,” he said yesterday.

In Hurricane Fly’s sights is a four-in-a-row in Ireland’s most prestigious hurdle contest, an achievement that would echo Istabraq’s four Irish Champion Hurdle wins in succession between 1998 and 2001.

However, the prospect of again taking on the world-record Grade 1 scorer hasn’t proved a deterrent for the connections of either Jezki or Our Conor.

The latter was ridden for the first time over flights by Danny Mullins at Christmas and made a big impression on the jockey, despite fading to third from the final flight.

“It was his first run of the season and I think he will improve a good bit from that. He jumped the last upsides ‘the Fly’ and not too many horses do that,” he said.

“He’s the best hurdle horse I’ve ridden. It was a true run race and they didn’t hang around. My horse was having his first run over hurdles since March so I’d expect to come on a good bit.”


Turn tables
With Hurricane Fly a 1/2 favourite with Paddy Power, both Our Conor and Jezki are 7/2 to turn the tables on January 26th and JP McManus’s racing manager Frank Berry confirmed yesterday that Jezki will again tackle his old rivals in the Irish Champion.

Captain Cee Bee, who cut out the pace in the Ryanair at Christmas, is again entered, while the seven-strong entry is completed by the Mullins trio, Annie Power, Un De Sceaux and Thousand Stars.

The McManus team will hope their own Christmas Grade 1 winner, Defy Logic, is up to completing a top-flight Leopardstown double in the main support race on Irish Champion Hurdle day.

Trainer Paul Nolan has confirmed the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Trophy is the next target for Defy Logic who beat Champagne Fever in a memorable St Stephen’s Day clash.