Belfast Telegraph

He carried the hopes of thousands of punters, but this was one day when Hurricane simply didn't fly

By Adrian Rutherford

A betting frenzy preceded Hurricane Fly's bid to join a list of hat-trick champions at the Cheltenham Festival, but it was not to be as the local favourite simply ran out of puff.

'The Fly' missed out on a third Champion Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival yesterday, leaving the bookies happy, but punters out of pocket.

The Northern Ireland-owned racehorse had been heavily backed to join an elite five-strong realm of three-time winners.

He finished fourth in the day one feature race, with 9-1 shot Jezki edging out the Tony McCoy mount My Tent Or Yours at the finish.

Ironically Jezki had been ridden in his four previous starts this season by McCoy.

The result proved costly for many backers, with bookmakers reporting heavy interest in the 10-year-old, owned by Rose Boyd from Crossgar and Belfast's George Creighton.

Brian Graham from Sean Graham Bookmakers said significant money had been placed on a Hurricane Fly triumph.

"He is a horse that the public has won money on over the years and the Champion Hurdler, defending his crown, is always popular with punters in the betting shops," Mr Graham said.

"He is also owned by people from the North of Ireland so it does add to the local interest.

"Northern Ireland racing is so small and insular that when you get something like this it does make news."

Tommy French, who owns a family-run chain of bookmakers in Lurgan, Craigavon, Moira and Londonderry, said Hurricane Fly had caught the imagination of punters.

"There was huge interest in Hurricane Fly, particularly this morning.

"We were giving odds of 100-30 and we got a lot of bets on him," he said.

"I would say he was well backed throughout Ireland and a lot of people will be left counting the cost."

Hurricane Fly was aiming to emulate fellow top Irish hurdler Istabraq by claiming a Champion Hurdle hat-trick.

Trained by Willie Mullins, Fly was sent off the 11-4 favourite and travelled well for much of the race but was overtaken by younger rivals up the Cheltenham hill.

Jezki and My Tent Or Yours battled for victory with the former, ridden by Barry Geraghty for Irish trainer Jessica Harrington, winning by a neck.

Geraghty, now unbeaten in five outings on Jezki, said: "I've been riding winners for Jessie since I was 17 or 18.

"She's been great to me over the years with the likes of Moscow Flyer and it's great to do it again here for her."

Harrington said she always believed Jezki could upset the odds.

"It's fantastic, it really is. It's great to be in this position," she said. "He's a great favourite of mine. He's a great horse and Barry has a great record on him.

"I always had great faith in the horse. He's a smashing horse.

"He relaxed well (in first-time blinkers) and he got through the preliminaries, which was great.

"The horse battled terrifically well."

QUOTE

"He's a great little horse. He had good form and he didn't have a lot to find with the best. I don't think his price reflected his chance."

Rider Barry Geraghty

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph