Sunday 23 October 2016

Track Talk: Hard-to-handle Fly just never knew when he was beaten

Hurricane Fly
Hurricane Fly

Sea The Stars, Frankel, Kauto Star and Hurricane Fly. Throw in Black Caviar and it's a fair line-up.

I wasn't around for Arkle or the other black-and-white greats, but even that era couldn't boast the quantity of equine stars that we have been lucky enough to witness in the last number of years alone.

Monday marked the end of a jumping era as Willie Mullins confirmed that Hurricane Fly had been retired.

Indeed, it was the end of a racing era as Hurricane Fly is the world record holder for Grade/Group One wins and at 22 that is a record that will struggle to be beaten in our lifetime. If it is, we'll certainly enjoy watching it.

With a record of 24 wins from 32 runs over hurdles, 22 of those coming at Grade One level and only twice was he out of the first three, 'The Fly' was a winner and a fighter.


You risked your own body parts if you dared enter his box in Closutton as he'd be particularly fond of taking a bite and also prone to a little kick, but that sort of character was what he brought with him to the track, where he always needed two people to lead him up. But, more importantly, he never knew when he was beaten.

Ruby Walsh spoke about how he was tactically so hard to ride against, something Walsh was lucky enough not to have to do on many occasions, because in his prime he could race from the front or from behind and be just as good under any circumstances and on any ground.

They'll always say that he wasn't as good around Cheltenham but if I ever come across a horse that can win two Champion Hurdles there and finish third and fourth in another two, I'd be fairly happy with my lot and that Cheltenham record could read even better but for an injury in his novice year and the following season when he missed the trip across to the Cotswolds, .

His determination to win and his willingness to literally let fly at the final hurdle when a good jump was going to be the difference between winning and losing were key factors in becoming the legend of a horse that everyone appreciates that he is.

Never in any of the eight hurdle races that he didn't win was it because of a bad jump at the last because on so many occasions when he was in that position, the horse he was eye-balling just couldn't cope with the pressure.

Solwhit and Jezki were two horses over Hurricane Fly's career who famously just had no other option but to settle for second best on more than one occasion - although both did manage to lower his colours too.

To get a horse to the races 24 times takes some doing, never mind getting them to win that number of times and 22 of those at the highest level. When you consider that he did have his problems in his first two seasons jumping, Willie Mullins' role in the career of the all-conquering 11-year-old has been massive.

As was Gail Carlisle's contribution, who hardly missed a day while Hurricane Fly was in training, and Paul Townend's, who rode him in all his work and helped settle him when he was a bit too eager earlier in his career.


Indeed, it was only that tendency to want to get on with things a little too much that prevented Mullins from contesting some big Flat races with him and who knows what level he could have reached there. Ascot Gold Cup? Melbourne Cup? We'll never know but his class was obvious.

A happy retirement now lies in store for Hurricane Fly - the horse of a generation. The horse of a lifetime.

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