WILLIE MULLINS hailed Hurricane Fly as back to his very best as recorded his third successive win in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in most impressive fashion.
The nine-year-old never came off the bridle in registering his 14th Grade One success, setting himself up perfectly for his bid to regain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Stablemate Thousand Stars made it a decent gallop in atrocious conditions but when Ruby Walsh made his move rounding the home turn, the result was never in doubt.
Binocular travelled well for a long way but was soon left in Hurricane Fly's wake and Nicky Henderson's 2010 champion just failed to get past Thousand Stars for second.
Hurricane Fly (1-6 favourite) won by five lengths.
Mullins said: "He's well used to these conditions and he flies through that ground so everything went according to plan.
"We didn't know what One Cool Shabra was going to do, but we weren't going to be hanging around with either horse (Hurricane Fly and Thousand Stars) if there was no pace.
"When you look at the race it was a tip-top race. Binocular has won a Champion Hurdle, Thousand Stars has won two French Champion Hurdles and Captain Cee Bee won a Supreme.
"Everything had gone 100% in his preparation."
Mullins went on: "Ruby said he's as good as he ever saw him. He gave him a squeeze turning off the last bend and said it was just like he had jumped in.
"He took off like he was on summer ground and I just hope to keep him in that form over the next six or seven weeks.
"I've had faith in him all year and he seems to be in the sort of form he was two years ago."
On Thousand Stars, Mullins said: "He ran a cracker and is coming back to himself - we may keep him for the Aintree Hurdle. They've brought that race back to Thursday this year so the gap between it and Cheltenham is that bit tighter."
Reacting to the success, Joseph Burke for Stan James said: "Ruby Walsh merely gave Hurricane Fly an inch of rein and he put the race to bed in a matter of strides.
"He will now bid to become the first horse to regain his Stan James Champion Hurdle crown since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 and he remains favourite to do so at 11-4 (from 7-2) with Stan James."