Sunday 23 October 2016

Is it Hurricane Fly's last hurrah?

French Champion Hurdle could well be the Fly's very last race

Hurricane Fly
Hurricane Fly

Many people began to write Hurricane Fly off at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival and by the time Punchestown had come around about six weeks later he was doomed to retirement in some eyes.

But not for the first time, Willie Mullins knew much better than the so-called 'hurlers on the ditch' and both horse and trainer combined to prove any doubters wrong with three Grade One wins last season.

Admittedly, those wins were in November, December and January and the ones that hold most importance are campaigned for in March and April, but when you are are the winning-most Grade or Group One horse of all time, you don't tend to have much to prove. And Hurricane Fly doesn't.

He attempted three miles for the first time at Punchestown when just losing out to Jezki but that was on ground that the 11-year-old would have found plenty fast for his well-travelled legs and now he looks to cap off a fine campaign in France on Sunday by having a crack at the French Champion Hurdle over an extended three miles but on ground that he should find just perfect.

You could be made a fool by wondering whether or not he could come back a rising 12 and win a Morgiana at Punchestown in November or a Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse because if ever a racehorse ran in Ireland that had the heart and determination to silence doubters it is Hurricane Fly but that said, if connections opted to end his racing career on the spot in Auteuil on Sunday afternoon it would hardly be a massive shock either.

A dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival, you'd have to feel that his record would stand at four wins from six appearances had he not missed his novice season and the following year when he was favourite for the Supreme Novice and Champion Hurdle respectively, but 'The Fly' is back on the French soil where he started his incredibly lucrative career and you just have to hope the crowd come out to appreciate their wonderful export.

There is very much a Cheltenham or Punchestown sort of feel to the race with so much potential Irish and English representation.

Paul Nicholls, David Pipe and Harry Fry all have entries for the Grande Course De Haies D'Auteuil at the Paris track and French-based Louisa Carberry, who is married to Champion Hurdle winning jockey Philip Carberry, is also set to have a runner with Rameur who will be their first in a Grade One.

"It's a huge help having Philip. He only really rides for me and it's great helping me out here at home every day," said Carberry.

"He's won a lot of top races in France and knows all the tracks so well and he knows the horses too.

"Rameur is ready to go. He ran well last time and he won. He's come out of the race very well. He's had a lot of problems throughout his career and at the moment he's had a clear run ahead of Sunday," she added.

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