Wednesday 17 January 2018

Punchestown 2015: Hurricane Fly and Jezki clash set to be race of the week

Hurricane Fly
Hurricane Fly

Let us start with the facts. Tomorrow’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle is not a two-horse race.

 In fact, a field of 12 has been declared for tomorrow’s feature and seven of them have won at Grade One level.

However, despite the depth of quality in the race, it is the prospect of two former Champion Hurdle winners, Hurricane Fly and Jezki, both of whom have won Grade Ones this season, clashing over three miles for the very first time, which excites most.

With the French Champion Hurdle (3m1f) firmly on Willie Mullins’ mind and the prospect of taking on Faugheen again not too appealing to connections of Jezki, the third day feature at the Punchestown Festival will provide the ninth meeting between  the duo. But of all their duels, this could be the one that lives longest in the memory of the Punchestown faithful.

With dark clouds full of rain looming over Punchestown and threatening to let loose, the ground could certainly end up playing into the favour of Tony Martin’s Dedigout. Last year’s winner Jetson – a half-brother to Jezki – took the notable scalp of Quevega to win this race 12 months ago and is back again.

Lieutenant Colonel is a dual Grade One winner this season and is reported to be in much better form leading up to this race, while Thousand Stars has been there and worn the T-shirt in top company and ran a blinder on his seasonal bow at Fairyhouse last time.

But most attention will be on the people’s favourite, Hurricane Fly.

It didn’t take the racing public long to warm to Hurricane Fly as it was clear from a very early stage that he was the real deal, even if the early part of his career in Closutton was marred by niggly injuries but this season as he went and broke world record for the most Grade One races won by a single racehorse, andf you got the feeling that even the wider sporting audience was starting to take note.

The vast majority of the 20,000 or so that are expected here tomorrow will be fully aware of the equine legend that is gracing them and if, at the ripe old age of 11, Hurricane Fly can win, which for what it’s worth I think he will, and secure a 23rd Grade One win . . . well the land which has held racing for nearly 200 years could be rocked to the core by the roars of the packed grandstand.

It is easy to think that tipping Hurricane Fly could be the heart ruling the head but he proved all winter that he is as good now as he was in his prime and certainly a better horse than he was last year.

Even when he came here for the Mogriana Hurdle back in November there was talk that he may be about to step up in trip.

The manner in which he travels during his races would suggest the distance won’t be a problem and there’s not a horse on this or any other island that would want to be engrossed in a head-to-head with him after the last hurdle.

It’ll be a fascinating race, one that is worth the entry fee alone.

Hopefully, further history will be made by the horse of a lifetime.

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