Ruby: 'Fly is 100%'
Jockey delighted with the form of Champion Hurdle star in work-out
EXACTLY a week after we had hoped to see him in competitive action, Hurricane Fly was at Leopardstown yesterday to complete a racecourse gallop in preparation for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle.
Despite not running the Champion Hurdle winner in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle last week, trainer Willie Mullins continually maintained that his stable star was fit and well but just "not ready to do himself justice".
However, punters failed to take heed of that warning and he drifted out to 11/4 on betting exchange website Betfair.and with some bookmaker firms for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he's now a solid 9/4 favourite this morning.
Ruby Walsh last week said: "I'd love to be in a position to be able to back him at 11/4," and yesterday he was delighted to see the 2011 Horse Racing Ireland horse of the year show his wellbeing.
"He had a setback earlier in the year and he took a bit of time to come right. He wasn't fit enough to run at Christmas, but I suppose with all the rumours, murmurs and doubters I guess we've shown them today that the horse is 100 per cent and not a bother on him."
Mullins watched as Hurricane Fly worked under Emmet Mullins, and he will now hope to keep the sometimes fragile eight-year-old in good order before returning to Leopardstown at the end of the month and then onto the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March in a bid to retain his crown.
Speaking after yesterday's piece of work Mullins said: "Hurricane Fly came from behind and the other three horses were all good horses.
"Emmet gave him a squeeze about two furlongs out hoping he'd get to the lead horse and he said he just came on fire. He got to the front way to soon and when he got there he just went away from the others.
"I'm very happy and that's the first real bit of work that I'm happy with this season.
"We know he has the engine, we've just got to keep everything else right. At least now he's shown us that his engine is right."
He concluded: "I'm much happier with the way he went compared to his work before Christmas and it's looking like he will come back for the Irish Champion Hurdle."
Since joining Mullins from France, Hurricane Fly has only suffered one defeat when third to Solwhit in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November 2009.
However, niggling setbacks forced Hurricane Fly to miss the Cheltenham Festivals of 2009 and 2010 when strongly fancied for both the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle.
Last season saw him enjoy his most fruitful campaign, winning all of his five starts including the Cheltenham showpiece and the Punchestown equivalent as well as the BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle, for which he is being geared towards at the end of this month.
Meanwhile, another Cheltenham Festival winning star is all set to make his return to action at Punchestown next month.
Sizing Europe has enjoyed a small mid-season break since winning the Tingle Creek at Sandown at the beginning of December, and therefore missed Christmas with an eye to returning to Punchestown's Tied Cottage Chase.
The 10-year-old Champion Chase winner is likely to set up an intriguing clash with Ireland's other leading two-mile chaser Big Zeb who is also targeting that race on the way back in search of Cheltenham Festival honours.
"He's in good form and we backed off him after Sandown to give him a nice break over Christmas," revealed trainer Henry de Bromhead.
"We're starting to build him back up again now and we're aiming towards the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown."