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Farewell to iconic Hurricane Fly as horse's retirement is announced

By Ron McKnight

Published 01/09/2015

Ruby Walsh rides Hurricane Fly to victory at Leopardstown
Ruby Walsh rides Hurricane Fly to victory at Leopardstown

The joint owner of Hurricane Fly has revealed her joy that the legendary Ulster horse will retire "fit and well".

It was announced yesterday that the 11-year-old gelding, which won a record breaking 22 Group One races over the jumps, had raced for the final time.

It was an emotional time for Crossgar lady and joint owner Rose Boyd.

There was sadness, relief and a great deal of pride and satisfaction too.

Rose told the Belfast Telegraph: "It's sad but he is retiring fit and well and sound. He has been racing for us since he was bought in France from 2007 and every day and every race was special."

Hurricane Fly carries the Irish bred tag but was owned by Ulster pair George Creighton and Rose Boyd, the duo with similar interests and friends for many years.

The horse was bought in France by Lisburn based bloodstock agent, Harold Kirk who "spots" the majority of future talent for Irish Champion trainer, Willie Mullins and the rest became racing history with Hurricane Fly claiming those 22 Grade 1 victories, two Champion Hurdle successes and five Irish Champion Hurdle wins, amassing almost €2million in prize money for connections.

Asked if one race stood out the Crossgar owner said: "The receptions he got at Cheltenham when winning the Champion Hurdle twice were very special. I will always remember those occasions and the way the public took to him.

"I also think he was good for horse racing in the province. People we met in any walk of live would always ask how is Hurricane Fly and where will he run next? It put horse racing in the headlines here."

Down the years Boyd has collected the Leading Owner/Breeder Award on numerous occasion at the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Awards night.

She knows better than most, how hard it is to breed a winner of any race, let alone to own a horse which passed the post first in a world record number of Grade 1 races.

Proud Rose added: "He loved Leopardstown as his five wins in the Irish Champion Hurdle show and was unbeaten there winning ten Grade 1 races.

"It's a belated retirement as we almost decided last year to retire him but he was in such good form and his trainer Willie Mullins told us he was working as well as ever on the gallops so we decided to let him race again this season."

The decision to continue was vindicated when Hurricane Fly won on his first start of the season in January, claiming a fifth Irish Champion Hurdle.

Another tilt at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham saw him finish third to his stable companion and new super star Faugheen in March before an epic battle with old rival at Punchestown saw him finish second to Jezki.

The local equine hero had a last throw of the dice when returning to France for their Champion Hurdle but the very testing conditions and the near three and quarter miles proved too much.

Ulster punters loved Hurricane Fly and always knew they would get a real run for their money. He was like a little terrier, always battling to the finish.

It's impossible not to over emphasis the achievements of the little horse.

By National Hunt standards. he was not big but he had a big heart.

And he proved massive for his connections, trainer Willie Mullins and regular jockey - Irish Champion, Ruby Walsh.

When he turned up at his "local" track at Downpatrick following his Cheltenham victories, it was clear to see the affection the general public had for him in Northern Ireland.

Rose added: "He is out at grass at present at Willie's. No decision has been made as yet where his permanent retirement home will be and like all decisions about "The Fly" - we will talk to the trainer and get his opinion."

Mullins deserves credit for having Hurricane Fly right, fit and racing well each and every year.

It's hard to imagine any horse, trained by Mullins or someone else, filling the shoes of this magnificent Ulster owned animal. Farewell to the great Hurricane Fly.

Belfast Telegraph

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