Saturday 24 February 2018

'Champion' Hurricane Fly retired at 11 with 22 Grade Ones to his name

Hurricane Fly and Ruby Walsh win a fifth Irish Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly and Ruby Walsh win a fifth Irish Champion Hurdle

Ashley Iveson

Hurricane Fly, one of the greatest hurdlers in the history of jumps racing, has been retired.

Time has been called on the career of the record-breaking 11-year-old, who won an astonishing 22 Grade One races.

The son of Montjeu won 24 of his 32 races over hurdles, including the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011 and 2013.

He earned connections nearly £1.9million in prize-money and had his final career start in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil in June, when he could only finish sixth.

Leopardstown was his favourite racecourse as he was unbeaten in 10 starts - all of which came at Grade One class - at the Dublin circuit.

Paul Townend rode Hurricane Fly eight times, winning six Grade Ones.

"He played a huge part in my career," said Townend.

"It's sad that he's retired, but, at the same time, he's still in one piece and is a happy horse.

"The owners and Willie had a chat and decided now was the time.

"I had my first ride in a Grade One on him (when winning the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in 2008) and was lucky enough to have some great days with him.

"He was a tough horse with a huge heart and a will to win.

"I owe him a lot."

Trainer Willie Mullins saluted what he described as a "legend of a horse".

He told Press Association Sport: "He's come back into training and he's really well in himself, but having had a chat with the owners, they were keen enough to retire him while he is still in great order.

"What can you say about him? He's a legend of a horse. This day was always going to come and it's great that we're doing it on our terms, rather than due to an injury or something like that.

"He's a horse who has everything - speed and stamina and an incredible bravery and aggressiveness. I think those are the key factors."

He added: "We've not decided what he's going to do yet. He's still here and was ridden out as normal this morning. He's still a handful and I've no doubt he's a rising 12-year-old with the mind of a six-year-old.

"He's going to the Curragh to parade on Irish Champions Weekend and he's also going to Merano in Italy to parade there at their big Gold Cup meeting in September.

"He's also just been invited to go to the big meeting at Milan in October, without them knowing he was going to retired.

"We were invited last year but decided not to, but he can do that now."

Hurricane Fly had many memorable battles with Jezki over the years, with the latter's trainer Jessica Harrington paying tribute to an "amazing" horse.

Harrington said: "Personally, I'm delighted he's retiring safe and sound and in one piece.

"He was an amazing horse to win all those races. That's testament to the horse's longevity, but also Willie's training of him.

"We thought last season, with Jezki having beaten him twice (Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and Racing Post Champion Hurdle at Punchestown), that he (Hurricane Fly) would be kicked out of the way.

"It obviously didn't work out that way as I had to wait until Punchestown (Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle) before we could beat him again.

"He was a great flag-bearer for Irish racing."

Hurricane Fly won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown a record-breaking five times in succession.

Nessa Joyce, the track's racing and operations manager, said: "The Champion Hurdle here won't be the same without him, that's for sure.

"Everyone here has lots of good memories and I know there have already been discussions on the best way to acknowledge his achievements. I think everyone was just waiting to see whether he would retire or make another comeback.

"He's unbeaten at Leopardstown, which is an incredible record."

Press Association

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