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Still no stopping mighty Hurricane Fly

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Jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins, right, groom Gail Carlisle, and owner George Creighton, after winning the Ryanair Hurdle, and his 21st Grade 1 victory which is a new world record

Jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins, right, groom Gail Carlisle, and owner George Creighton, after winning the Ryanair Hurdle, and his 21st Grade 1 victory which is a new world record

Jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins, right, groom Gail Carlisle, and owner George Creighton, after winning the Ryanair Hurdle, and his 21st Grade 1 victory which is a new world record

When Willie Mullins walked out of Punchestown last May after Hurricane Fly had gone down to Jezki for a second consecutive time on the big stage the champion trainer was definitely in the minority by thinking that he'd be back elegantly gracing the Grade One dance floor this season. But then again Willie Mullins is different isn't he? He's a genius.

And Hurricane Fly is different too. Different to anything I have ever seen on a racecourse and anything witnessed by those older, greyer and with better memories. Hurricane Fly is a world record breaker. A warrior. A champion. A legend.

To think that this horse missed two Cheltenham Festivals and gave Mullins and his team hardship in his earlier years at Closutton as they did everything in their power to keep him sound, the fact that yesterday he managed to beat Jezki for the second time this season, maintain his unbeaten record around Leopardstown and win a 21st Grade One race just days before he'll become an 11-year-old is simply sensational and the likes of it won't be seen again.

Ruby Walsh has played an integral part in the career of Hurricane Fly, so too has Paul Townend who rides him regularly at home, Jack Madden and Emmet Mullins who deputise in Townend's absence and Gail Carlilse who is forever by his side.

Walsh perfectly explained the trainers role though.

"Willie probably never gives himself credit and he won't because that's Willie and he's so modest but to keep a horse like him on the go for so long, that is phenomenal," Walsh said.

"To bring him back to win 21 Grade Ones is some planning, some minding and some worrying. I think it's an incredible training performance."

Walsh added: "He won a four-year-old hurdle at Punchestown, he then went on and won at Auteuil and that's a long time ago. To come back year after year, he was here as a novice, that's the fourth time he has won that race there and he missed a Christmas along the way.

"To keep him on the boil, bring him back and get him right so many days, I think, is incredible."

Hurricane Fly provided Mullins with an astonishing 129th win at Grade One level which the trainer later added to with Don Poli, a 99th winner for Mullins at that level in Ireland, in the Topaz Novice Chase and he had no hesitation in saying he never doubted the horse at the end of last season.

"I didn't lose faith in him," was the adamant response. "People were talking to me and asking would I retire him and I said 'no, why?' He had two less than good runs but any horse is allowed that.

"To me if I thought the ability was sill there I was going to race him and he showed me at home that his zest for racing is still there so we were happy enough." Mullins was naturally glowing with praise for 'The Fly'.

"He's the best I have ever trained, definitely. I'd say he's the best anyone has ever trained over hurdles. I'll never have another horse like him."

It was billed as round six behind Hurricane Fly and Jezki and the Jessica Harrington-trained Jezki again lost nothing in defeat and proved that he'll be a major force back at Cheltenham where he enjoyed his finest hour.

FUTURE

The sight of both turning for home to go head-to-head and then letting fly at the last hurdle upsides is a piece of footage we won't get sick of seeing, and a good job too as we'll be seeing a lot of replays of it in the future, no doubt.

Watching the race from afar Hurricane Fly didn't seem to be jumping as well as expected and while Walsh wasn't sending out distress signals you got the impression he had often been happier.

The rider explained: "He jumped the shadow at the first hurdle and that resulted in him landing a bit flat and it gave him a little fright and he was a bit careful at the next couple.

"But when we got racing down the back and the tempo lifted he was jumping slicker and slicker.

"As he got older he got more relaxed, but I must say when I joined AP going to the last, AP was a bit quicker than me and I thought 'Feck it, I'm after giving him back the advantage', but he stuck his head out and battled all the way out to the line.

"He's a little terrier and that is something he always had - that fight and guts and a lot of it," added Walsh.

Roll on round seven in the Irish Champion Hurdle on January 25.


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