Sport Cheltenham

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Podcast: Mullins buzzing over Fly’s bid to secure back-to-back Champion Hurdle crowns

Richard Forristal

IT'S all systems go for reigning Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly as the Willie Mullins stable star puts his crown on the line at Cheltenham today.

Having endured a difficult time trying to get him right ahead of a belated seasonal reappearance, Mullins last night expressed himself happy that his 2011 champion is ready to do battle.

When Mullins finally got the eight-year-old back in competitive action for a first time this season in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, the result was a devastating rout of the field to bring his Grade One haul to 10.

It was a performance that quashed any fears that 'The Fly' might have lost his buzz and the champion trainer, while not making too much in the way of bold statements, believes he remains in the best of shape ahead of today's Grade One.

"I think he is just holding his form, and I am happy with that," Mullins said after watching his stable star exercise at the Prestbury Park venue yesterday. "He travelled over well, he rode out nicely this morning and seems much more relaxed on the gallop over here than he was last year."

Ruby Walsh was similarly upbeat ahead of a race which also features the back-to-form 2010 winner Binocular. "I thought Binocular was good at Wincanton," Walsh admitted, "but to me it all points to Hurricane Fly. He is the form horse, he is the champion and by the laws of probability you'd have to think he should win."

Quevega's third facile success in the mares' hurdle secured an excellent opening-day double for Mullins and Walsh last year, and the Closutton handler was equally upbeat about her chances of bagging a fourth successive victory in today's Grade Two.

Mullins reported: "She travelled over well and Jess, who rides her all the time, thinks she's stronger than she was when she rode her out at Cheltenham last year. We're happy with the ground, and fingers crossed all goes well."

The going remained good, good to soft in places at Cheltenham yesterday, after track management continued to apply water to ensure safe ground conditions.

Along with the Arkle Trophy market leader Sprinter Sacre, Hurricane Fly and Quevega were last night trading at odds-on for their respective targets this afternoon.

Paddy Power and Champion Hurdle sponsors Stan James offered a top-priced 10/11 about Hurricane Fly, with the same two firms going just 1/2 about Quevega.

In between their two hurdle races, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing Australia will also bid to retain his cross-country crown, while stablemate Sizing Europe will attempt to do the same in the Queen Mother Champion Chase tomorrow. The 10-year-old is among eight that have declared for the two-mile Grade One, with Colm Murphy's 2010 winner Big Zeb and Noel Meade's Realt Dubh also set to line out.

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