Popular Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly secured his 22nd Grade One win yesterday (Sunday 25 January), winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
More than 8,000 racing fans cheered in the Irish hero as he came into the winner’s enclosure following a record-breaking run.
He secured his fifth win in the race, surpassing the tally set by the mighty Istabraq, who won the Irish Champion Hurdle four times between 1998 and 2001.
Hurricane Fly is a course expert, having now won 10 races from 10 at Leopardstown.
He may be 11 years old, but he proved age was not a consideration by winning by 3 1/4 lengths to six-year-old Arctic Fire. Seven-year-old Jezki was a further four lengths back in third.
Jezki, who is trained by Jessica Harrington, blundered at the last and pecked on landing, leaving Hurricane Fly’s stable-mate Arctic Fire open to claim the runner-up position.
“He gave me a brilliant jump [at the last]. He’s an incredible horse,” said jockey Ruby Walsh.
“He’s beaten the reigning English [Champion Hurdle] champion [Jezki] three times this season,” said trainer Willie Mullins. “It’s all go for Cheltenham now.”
Hurricane Fly won the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle in 2011, and became the first horse in 38 years to regain the crown when he won again in 2013.
Willie Mullins is also aiming Hurricane Fly’s stable-mate Faugheen at the Champion Hurdle, leaving jockey Ruby Walsh with a tough decision.
Hurricane Fly is currently 5-1 with the bookies, while the unbeaten seven-year-old Faugheen, who put in an impressive performance in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton is evens favourite.
However, Ruby has said he will wait until much nearer the time to make his choice.
For more on Hurricane Fly’s win, and H&H columnist Richard Johnson’s thoughts on Ruby’s tough decision don’t miss H&H, out Thursday 29 January.