Hurricane Fly’s five best performances

So many magical memories – 42 appearances, 26 wins, 22 Grade 1s, five Irish Champion Hurdles, three Morgianas, two Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham – but which ones stood out for you? Here are our five favourites:

1. 2015 BHP Irish Champion Hurdle

Hurricane Fly

Hurricane Fly receives a hero’s reception at Leopardstown

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

Hurricane Fly was to Leopardstown was what Rafael Nadal was to Roland Garros. He had never been beaten there. All nine of his previous wins at the track were in Grade 1s.

He was basically unbeatable once he entered through the gates of his favourite hunting ground. But he was almost 11 years of age now and that unblemished course record looked under serious threat as Jezki was back for more and Arctic Fire, the new kid on the block, was getting better all the time.

So good was the race that Hurricane Fly was sent off a shade of odds-against. We were treated to a thriller. Tony McCoy had a double-handful on Jezki turning for home but he crashed into the last hurdle and Hurriance Fly, who appeared to be getting the better of the battle at that stage, quickened right away to complete the perfect ten at Leopardstown. It was to be his last ever success. How fitting that it arrived on his favourite stage.

2. 2014 Stanjames.com Morgiana Hurdle, Punchestown

Hurricane Fly and Ruby Walsh win

Hurricane Fly (right) defied predictions his best days were behind him

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

There was more chat about retirement than you would hear at a bingo night after Hurricane Fly found Jezki too hot to handle in the 2014 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and again at Punchestown. Surely his best days were behind him, they said. But Willie Mullins knew different.

The champion trainer knew that there was one more magical season left in his locker and his decision to keep the 10-year-old in training was rewarded when he quickened clear of Jezki to win the Morgiana for a third time on the trot. It turns out the old dog had some new tricks. It set the tone for one final season for Hurricane Fly which saw him land three Grade 1s.

3. 2013 Stan James Champion Hurdle

Hurricane Fly

Hurricane Fly was at his bravest in the 2013 Champion Hurdle

  PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)  

Thirty-eight years had passed since Comedy Of Errors regained his Champion Hurdle crown in 1975, but Hurricane Fly bridged that gap by dishing out revenge on Rock On Ruby who entered the race as the defending champion.

This was Hurricane Fly as his bravest. Halfway down the back straight with four hurdles left to jump, Ruby Walsh began squeezing along and didn’t look happy. Even course commentator Mike Cattermole picked up on it.

But Walsh began to get a tune out of Hurricane Fly coming down the hill and he stayed on strongly to beat Rock On Ruby by two and a half lengths. It wasn’t his flashiest performance, but few could argue that it wasn’t his bravest.

4. 2011 Stan James Champion Hurdle

Hurricane Fly and Ruby Walsh jump the last flight on there way to winning the Champion Hurdle from Peddler's Cross Cheltenham Festival 15.03.2011

Peddlers Cross put up a strong challenge but the Fly found an extra gear

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

He had already proven himself to be a bully at Leopardstown but the doubters didn’t believe he could do it away from home. Another success over Solwhit in the Irish Champion Hurdle set him up perfectly for a first trip to Britain and a first try at the Cheltenham festival.

Despite the doubters, Hurricane Fly was still sent off the 11-4 favourite. Ruby Walsh settled Hurricane Fly just behind the leaders and moved effortlessly into contention coming down the hill. Once he turned for home it was a straight shootout between him and Peddlers Cross, the previous year’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner.

Both were brave. Both had become used to winning. Neither wanted to give in but it was Hurricane Fly who found that extra gear close home to score by a length and a quarter. He had bought his Irish form to England. The Champion Hurdle was his for the first time.

5. 2008 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle, Leopardstown

A narrow victory in the Royal Bond the previous month on his second Irish start meant racegoers were still feeling their way with Hurricane Fly, but this was the day when it was clear we were watching something different. He only had a neck to spare over Donnas Palm in that aforementioned Fairyhouse heat but this was a different Hurricane Fly.

Paul Townend was yet again deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh and sat motionless coming down to the last hurdle. Hurricane Fly sprinting ten lengths clear of Go Native on the run-in and that display took on a new dimension when the runner-up went on to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival two months later – a race that Hurricane Fly had to sit out through injury.

 

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