Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 19 November 2017

Walsh hails Hurricane's 'unbelievably big heart' after reclaiming crown

"What he has along with all his class is an unbelievably big heart for a small horse. He has never been short of stamina or guts, and he jumped the last when I needed one today," Walsh said.

A sustained cacophony of euphoria barely relented until after Hurricane Fly had left the winner's enclosure following an incredible 15th Grade One success.

Once the crescendo died, Mullins admitted that it was a relief to banish the memory of last year's subdued third.

"This means a great deal," he said, "but most of all that the horse came back and proved himself. He has justified our belief in his ability.

"Even when he was five or six lengths off the pace, I could see that Ruby wasn't down and riding, so I knew he wasn't worried. He waited until they were going downhill, and once he got back to them, I was pretty sure he wouldn't be beaten."

Rock On Ruby was equally brave in defeat. Fehily got a great tune out of him in first-time blinkers, and it took something very special indeed to foil his repeat bid.

Countrywide Flame and Zarkandar, the last two Triumph Hurdle winners, kept on for minor honours.

Champagne Fever got swathes of Mullins' loyal followers off to a flyer in the opening William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle. This was another for Walsh's growing repertoire of Grade One gems this season.

He took it to his rivals from the get-go. The gangly grey had won the Champion Bumper in similar style 12 months ago, but when AP McCoy loomed up on JP McManus' favourite My Tent Or Yours at the final flight, the game looked up.

Champ-agne Fever eyeballed My Tent Or Yours up the run-in, though, and McCoy's flashy partner couldn't go through with it. The winner came home by half a length at an SP of 5/1, having been heavily supported from double-figure odds over the previous couple of days. Jessica Harrington's Jezki also ran a superb race to be third.

"It was a very brave performance," Mullins reported after getting off the mark. "He battled back tremendously."

The Rich Ricci-owned six-year-old is the first horse since Montelado in 1993 to follow success in the bumper with a win in this prestigious two-miler, and Mullins confirmed that he, like Hurricane Fly, will now head for the Punchestown Festival.

Superlative

Quevega will also go there, after a superlative fifth successive win in the Grade Two OLBG Mares' Race. Similar to Hurricane Fly, the Hammer and Trowel syndicate's remarkable French-bred seemed at less than her imperious self for a long period here.

Odds-on as ever for her traditional reappearance, she gradually progressed through from the rear into a position to challenge turning in. Sirene D'Ainay and Swincombe Flame were by then embroiled in their own little scuffle, but there was an impending sense of inevitability about the result once Quevaga found her stride.

"I'm absolutely delighted for her," Mullins gushed after the historic victory. "She's so precious and we're lucky to have her."

In the Arkle Trophy, Barry Geraghty foiled a gallant effort by Mouse Morris' 33/1 shot Baily Green to get Simonsig home at odds of 8/15. It might not have been the cakewalk everybody expected for Nicky Henderson's talented grey, but not everything went his way and he still got the job done.

You could say it was that sort of day.

Irish Independent

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