Hurricane blows away rivals
Hurricane Fly notched up his third successive win in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in thoroughly impressive fashion.
The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old (1-6 favourite) never came off the bridle in registering his 14th Grade One success to set himself up for an attempt to regain the Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March.
Thousand Stars set a decent gallop in the atrocious conditions, but Ruby Walsh made his move rounding the home turn and zipped clear before easing down to win by five lengths, with his stablemate just holding off Binocular, who travelled well for a long way, for second place.
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. Everything had gone 100% in his preparation. 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 went on: "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)."