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No flies on imperious Hurricane

Willie Mullins is thrilled to report Hurricane Fly none the worse for his spectacular seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown.

The eight-year-old enjoyed a stellar campaign last season, with victories in the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham featuring among five Grade One triumphs.

His comeback had been delayed up until his defence of his Irish Champion Hurdle crown on Sunday as Mullins had not been entirely happy with his stable star in the first half of the season. But Hurricane Fly showed he had lost none of his dash with a truly magnificent performance which left even his trainer slightly stunned.

Mullins said on Monday: "He's fine this morning, which is great news. He really surprised me how well he did it. He was very quiet in the parade ring beforehand, but maybe he's just maturing.

"He was very good in the race and I hope he can improve, but, having said that, if I can get him to Cheltenham in the same sort of form as he was yesterday I think I'd be happy enough. We have six weeks until Cheltenham and I'll just train him as I see him between now and then."

Jockey Ruby Walsh was pleased with the performance of Hurricane Fly, but felt one or two of his beaten rivals failed to show their best form.

He said: "He was very impressive, he settled beautifully and jumped really well in a true-run race. It was a good jump at the second-last. He jumped past Oscars Well, joined Thousand Stars, and he came alive and the race was over. It's good to see him back. It was a great performance.

"I probably was surprised (he won by that far). I don't think Thousand Stars ran as good as he can run. They went a really good gallop and Paul (Townend) gave him a breather down the back but he just didn't quicken again, which is unlike him. Obviously Unaccompanied didn't fire, she ran considerably worse than she did at Christmas, and Oscars Well has run a really good race. You'd hope (there's a lot left)."

Walsh admits this year's Stan James Champion Hurdle is a hard race to assess, though, with many of last year's rivals having switched to chasing.

He told At The Races: "It's hard to know (how strong this year's race will be). There's no Peddlers Cross, it's up in the air what they will do with Oscar Whisky, Thousand Stars was third, while Sprinter Sacre and Menorah have gone chasing. Zarkandar runs in less than a fortnight and the horses behind him are pitching at it. There's quite a bit to go yet."

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