Fired-up Ruby set to Fly in face of bookies
Ruby Walsh is unwavering in his belief that Hurricane Fly can recapture the magic that carried him to Champion Hurdle glory two years ago, despite the nine-year-old drifting markedly in the betting throughout yesterday.
Willie Mullins' stable star remained the outright favourite for this afternoon's two-mile showpiece last night, but he was easy to back all day, drifting from a low of 7/4 in the morning to a general 9/4 last night.
"I can't understand why the bookmakers appear to be all out to get him," a perplexed Walsh said. "I'd hate to be laying him – and I think he'll take all the beating."
The Cheltenham Festival's most successful jockey, who hasn't ridden since picking up a minor knock to his ankle when he took two falls at Leopardstown last Sunday week, added of the 14-time Grade One winner: "I love the little horse. I've won a Champion Hurdle on him, and his form has been rock solid.
"He has had a great season and preparation from the word go this year, compared to last year."
In a campaign that has so far yielded three bloodless victories compared to last season's belated start prior to a subdued third here behind the re-opposing Rock On Ruby, Walsh's assertion that Hurricane Fly's preparation has been smoother cannot be contradicted. And yet, despite the likelihood of soft ground also being in his mount's favour, historical stats appear to be the root of the negative market vibes.
Just two horses of Hurricane Fly's vintage have won the Champion Hurdle in the past 30 years, and it is nearly 40 years since Comedy Of Errors became the only horse to regain the crown after losing it in 1975. Paul Nicholls' Zarkandar, which Walsh could have ridden, was the one that punters wanted last night, as he was backed from 4/1 into 7/2 with the sponsors.
However, Mullins also remained unperturbed by the market developments. "He travelled well, he's in great form and I'm happy with conditions," the trainer said from the track yesterday.
"I haven't even looked at the declarations. I'm just happy with how everything has gone with our horse so far."