Belfast Telegraph

Bookies battered as Northern Ireland-owned Hurricane races to victory at Cheltenham

By Anne Madden

For the past two years Hurricane Fly has missed the Cheltenham Festival because of injury.

But yesterday the Northern Ireland-owned horse finally made his debut on the hallowed national hunt turf as he grabbed a nail-biting victory in the Champion Hurdle.

The victory brought joy for the thousands of Irish punters who had flocked to Cheltenham but caused misery for bookies who had taken a late rush of money on the seven-year-old champion colt which started the race as 11-4 favourite.

The victory gave Irish trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh their first success in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.

Hurricane Fly was bought in 2008 by George Creighton, from Belfast, who is retired from the construction industry, and Rose Boyd, who runs an equine centre in Crossgar, Co Down.

Celebrating their biggest ever win, George’s grandson Lewis Creighton said: “It has been a very good day.

“Everyone involved with Hurricane Fly is just overwhelmed, we are all delighted. This is our biggest win, we just hope to come back next year and do as well.”

He described how the champion horse had disappointingly missed the last two meetings at Cheltenham due to injury.

“Thankfully, he was in good health for this race and has shown he is a champion.

“We hope to take him to Punchestown races in May and continue this form.”

Jockey Walsh described Hurricane Fly as “a deserved champion with a big heart” and said he always believed in him.

Referring to the horse’s owners, the jockey said: “The confidence you want is from the people you are working for, and they had the confidence in me.”

But the bookmakers were not celebrating as they faced a huge payout after the popular victory.

Paul McLean, from A McLean Bookmakers, said: “There can’t be any bookmaker who would be pleased with that result, but a great day for the punters. We’re talking a six-figure payout on that race.”

Mr McLean said the rest of the day’s betting had been good for bookmakers, but “there wasn’t nearly enough takings to cover the losses on this one”.

He described how Hurricane Fly had started off yesterday at 4-1 odds but by the time of the race at 3.20pm it was favourite at 11-4. There was fantastic betting but, unfortunately, most of it was on the winner,” he said. “It was a bad day for bookmakers north and south. Hurricane Fly is a fabulous racehorse but had been plagued by injuries, today he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a champion.”

The Irish horse’s trainer, Willie Mullins, revealed he had been worried about the animal’s health before the race but that “everything went according to plan”.

“He’s got speed, stamina and he gets over the jump,” said the delighted trainer who has 28 horses at Cheltenham this year. Today was the day. I am just delighted he got the chance to show what he can do.”

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