RUBY Walsh has revealed he is "utterly perplexed" by the negativity surrounding Hurricane Fly as he aims to regain his crown in Tuesday's Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 2011 winner was a disappointing third when odds-on favourite 12 months ago, but has appeared as good as ever in three starts this season, completing the hat-trick with his third triumph in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Despite his obvious claims, plenty of people are keen take on the Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old in Tuesday's feature, but Walsh is quietly confident about his chances.
"I know there has been much negativity of late about the horse, but it has left me utterly perplexed," the jockey said in his Irish Examiner column.
"All I will say is that those of us closest to him are more than happy at where he is at the moment."
Having suffered two heavy falls at Leopardstown last weekend, Walsh has not been seen in competitive action since and will not be back in the saddle until the start of the Festival.
He said: "My absence is purely precautionary and I'm 100% ready to go. I left Leopardstown, however, with a sprained ankle and it was badly bruised.
"I could have ridden this week, no problem, but both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls were anxious I gave it a skip and to arrive fresh and well for the start of the Festival.
"It's a similar situation for Paul Townend, who was also in the wars at Leopardstown. Willie wanted Paul to also head straight to Cheltenham and that is now the case.
"Our whole season, of course, has been geared towards this extravaganza and it is terrific that both Willie and Paul's horses are in the form of their lives.
"That wasn't the case a year ago, when they were just a bit flat. I don't think Nicky Henderson - he had seven winners last year - will find it as easy this time round."