Willie Mullins - "Hurricane Fly is the best hurdler I've ever trained and he's going to be missed"
Willie Mullins hailed retiring hero Hurricane Fly as "the best hurdler I've ever trained" after the curtain came down on a record-breaking career today.
The 11-year-old, winner of a staggering 22 Grade 1 races, amassed over €2.5 in prize money and collected two Cheltenham Champion Hurdles as well as a host of major honours on home soil.
The champion trainer spoke with pride about how lucky he is to be associated with the horse of a generation and echoed the sentiments of regular pilot Ruby Walsh who said he was the best hurdler he's ever sat on.
"He's the bets I've ever had. He's a favourite of everyone in the yard and he's going to be missed so much. He missed two Cheltenhams and still won there twice from five visits. He won a lot of admirers throughout his career and thankfully his longevity showed everyone just how good he was," Mullins told Joe Molloy said on Newstalk's Off The Ball.
Mullins said the decision to hang up his saddle comes at the right time despite still believing the son of Montjeu could collect more Grade 1 prizes this coming winter.
"We had a chat with the owners and decided it was time to retire. I just had a gut feeling that it was the right time. He's probably still good enough to win Grade 1 races but he's given everyone a good enough time," the Closutton handler said.
"We couldn't risk him getting injured or something going wrong. You can't do much more than ten seasons at the top. It's amazing to think that he's going on 12, he has the ambition and mind of a six-year-old."
His trainer said the gelding retained "colt-like characteristics" which helped to make him a special equine talent, even if he was a little challenging around the yard for stable staff at the Carlow base.
"He's so bullish around the stable. It still takes two people to saddle him up and you'd want to count your fingers coming out of the stable because he'd be nipping away at you. He's like a three-year-old colt and it's very rare when they're gelded that they retain those bullish tendencies," he said.
Mullins also shared a story about how the natural hurdling ability supporters became accustomed to came about in rather unusual circumstances in his early days in France.
"His hurdling ability wasn't obvious initially. He was spotted schooling in France for a Flat trainer. He used to school him over fences to cool him off. We spotted him and it took a few days to buy him. He cost a fair bit at the time and he was the most expensive horse in the yard at the time."
Hurricane Fly won 24 of his 32 races and is widely-regarded as one of the best hurdlers since the great Istabraq. His undefeated streak of ten wins at Leopardstown marked him down as a particular favourite on these shores.
Mullins said the legendary hurdler has already been invited to fulfill a variety of celebrity duties including parading before the crowds during Champions Day at the Curragh Sunday week and in Italy a few weeks later. He is likely to be sent to the National Stud after Christmas where he can enjoy retirement.