Tuesday 12 December 2017

hurricane Fly: the people's choice

If you didn't witness the reception Hurricane Fly got after winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January you definitely heard about it but should he win at Cheltenham next week, it'll possibly be one of the greatest days in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, maybe in jump racing, possibly in horse racing full stop.

Hurricane Fly is a living legend. The horse with the most Grade One wins ever, the 11-year-old just doesn't get the fact that most horses his age are finished at the top level and are winding down ahead of retirement to greener pastures.

Hurricane Fly's haul of 22 is incredible and there's not a more impressive collection out there. His longevity has been amazing, especially considering that he had frustratingly missed a number of intended engagements during his first two seasons with Mullins.

His Grade One tally could/should be even more.

Having begun this season as a 40/1 shot to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham for a third time, Hurricane Fly is now no bigger than 8/1 for the opening day feature next week after surprising almost everybody.

Going to Cheltenham in 2011 Hurricane Fly was incredibly sent off at 11/4. Albeit favourite, the price was very big for a horse who had won three Grade Ones on his way that season but doubts over his temperament and the record of his sire, Montjeu, around the undulating Cotswolds were giving the doubters plenty of hope. He blew the talented Peddlers Cross away and the runner-up was arguably never the same horse again.

Defeated by Rock On Ruby and Overturn the following year, Hurricane Fly's knockers were back on the pedestal suggesting that he simply wasn't as good a horse around Cheltenham as he could be in Ireland.

But following that defeat, 'The Fly' went back for more. In 2013, he reversed the roles with Rock On Ruby and became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors to regain his crown.

Last year Jezki came out on top and following his failure to make it five in a row in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown, it appeared that Hurricane Fly was now on the declining road.

When beating Jezki in the Morgiana Hurdle in November, The Fly extended his own record of Grade One wins to 20 but it was still thought that maybe he just caught Jezki out at the right time of year.

But, as Jezki's trainer Jessica Harrington has since admitted, Hurricane Fly is just unbeatable around Leopardstown.

Willie Mullins' stable star is now not only owned by George Creighton and Rose Boyd but also runs runs for the racing public.

Hurricane Fly is the people's horse.

There's no doubt that even the staunchest of Hurricane Fly fans will have their doubts over his chances of setting Cheltenham alight on Tuesday, but if the rain keeps up and the ground is softer than is tradition on the opening day of the meeting, this old boy will certainly come into the reckoning and Mother Nature could give jockey Ruby Walsh a big decision to make.

Victory next week for Hurricane Fly and he'll be remembered decades from now, just like the great Arkle is. Cheltenham conceives magical moments. Don't rule this one out.

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