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changing of guard

When even Ruby Walsh admits that Hurricane Fly's price ahead of Sunday's Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown is more sentiment than reality, you know that the record-breaking hurdler has his hands full.

At Cheltenham and Punchestown last season, it was Jessica Harrington's Jezki who put 'The Fly' in his place and signalled a fairly strict changing of the guard in the two-mile hurdling division.

That said, 19 Grade One victories is a serious record, and you don't just go and pick those races up at your local corner-shop. Barring frustrating little niggles that sidelined him on occasions, there is no doubt that Hurricane Fly could be well into the 20s in terms of Grade One triumphs and his haul at the Cheltenham Festival could easily have been three or four rather than just two.

And for that very reason Hurricane Fly is a horse that has built up a strong following as people appreciate just how good he is on his day and the chances of us seeing a horse go and win 19 Grade Ones in the near future are probably slimmer than the prospect of Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson performing a duet for a Christmas Number One.

There's every chance that the counting clicker hasn't stopped on Hurricane Fly's Grade One total and that he'll pick up another before retirement beckons.

prefer

On ground that he'll much prefer than Jezki, it wouldn't be a massive shock if the total reached 20 on Sunday, but nor would it be a surprise if, for a third time in as many meetings, Jezki stamps his authority on the 10-year-old.

While Hurricane Fly has won 19 Grade Ones, it will surprise many that JP McManus' main jockey in Ireland, Mark Walsh, has only won one, so the opportunity to ride Jezki on Sunday in the absence of the injured Tony McCoy and the Cheltenham-bound Barry Geraghty, is massive on many levels, but one he'll take in his stride.

Indeed, probably the surest thing about Sunday's feature race is that the winning jockey will be a Walsh . . .


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