Sunday 18 March 2018

Hurricane Fly secures world record at Punchestown

Ruby Walsh riding Hurricane Fly
Ruby Walsh riding Hurricane Fly

Hurricane Fly set a new world record of 17 Grade One wins with a fluent success in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

Willie Mullins' brilliant hurdler overtook Paul Nicholls' outstanding chaser Kauto Star and legendary American Flat performer John Henry as the winning-most horse at the highest level with his eighth course and distance success.

Sent off at highly-prohibitive odds of 1-16, Hurricane Fly was registering a 21st career victory from 32 starts.

His stablemate Mikael D'Haguenet led until after the second-last, where Ruby Walsh brought Hurricane Fly to challenge.

A fine jump at the final flight settled matters, although a third Mullins runner in Marito stayed on to close on the winner at the line.

Mullins also saddled the fourth, Midnight Game, with Michael Bowe's Akatara last of the five.

Mullins said: "It's great to get that out of the way. That's probably one of his least impressive performances, if not his least.

"That's as ready as he was and he'll improve away during the rest of the season. He came back very strong and even though he was working well he needed that badly.

"Paddock observers would have said he's as big and as heavy as he's ever been. I think there is a lot of improvement in him.

"He will stick to the same routine, and hopefully he comes out of this safe and sound and we'll look forward to Christmas (Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown."

The trainer said of Marito: "He ran a cracker and is improving. There's no plans and we'll take it week by week, but I think there's a nice race in him somewhere.

"He did a lovely piece of work the other day and showed that today."

Walsh, who rode Kauto Star to 14 of his Grade One wins and has been on board for 11 of Hurricane Fly's, was quick to pay tribute to Mullins and Nicholls.

He said: "To keep a jumps horse on the go that long, to win 16 (Grade Ones) with him (Kauto Star), and for Willie to do it with Hurricane Fly, to go and win 17 is incredible.

"To keep a horse that fit and that healthy, and to keep running at that level for so long, is an achievement in its own.

"It's a privilege to be able to ride him, but the work everyone puts into it at home is incredible - I only get to see him at the races.

"They can be proud of themselves and take a bow."

Of the race, Walsh said: "It's a starting point for him, it was probably similar to the race last year when Go Native fell at the last.

"But you can only beat what's around you and I always think it's a long enough season, you can do the bare minimum to win. He never lets you down."

Coral eased Hurricane Fly to 5-1 from 4-1 to record a third success in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Spokesman David Stevens said: "The record-breaking Hurricane Fly remains a leading contender for next March's championship, but his victory lacked any great sparkle, and with the likes of The New One, Our Conor and My Tent Or Yours waiting to challenge him, he could face an extremely tough defence of his crown."

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