Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly ahead of Kauto Star
Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly set a new world record of 17 Grade One wins with a fluent success in the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday.
Ruby Walsh rode a five-timer at the course and his trainer Willie Mullins saddled seven winners over two meetings.
Hurricane Fly – owned by George Creighton from Belfast and Rose Boyd of Crossgar – overtook the great Kauto Star and legendary American Flat performer John Henry as the most garlanded horse at the highest level with his eighth course and distance success.
Sent off at highly prohibitive odds of 1-16 in the €80,000 contest, Hurricane Fly was registering a 21st career victory from 32 starts.
The Fly was applauded into the winner's circle before receiving three cheers as he left.
"It's great to get that out of the way," trainer Willie Mullins said.
"That's probably one of his least impressive performances, if not his least. That's as ready as he was and he'll improve away during the rest of the season. He came back very strong and even though he was working well he needed that badly.
"Paddock observers would have said he's as big and as heavy as he's ever been. I think there is a lot of improvement in him."
Ruby Walsh, who rode Kauto Star to 14 of his Grade One wins and has been on board for 11 of Hurricane Fly's 17 – including yesterday's triumph – was quick to pay tribute to the handlers.
"To keep a jumps horse on the go that long, to win 16 with him (Kauto Star), and for Willie to do it with Hurricane Fly, to go and win 17 is incredible," the jockey said.
"To keep a horse that fit and that healthy, and to keep running at that level for so long, is an achievement in its own.
"It's a privilege to be able to ride him, but the work everyone puts into it at home is incredible – I only get to see him at the races. They can be proud of themselves and take a bow."
Of the race, Walsh said: "It's a starting point for him – it was probably similar to the race last year.
"But you can only beat what's around you and I always think it's a long enough season – you can do the bare minimum to win. He never lets you down."
Coral eased Hurricane Fly to 5-1 from 4-1 to record a third success in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Walsh lit up an overcast afternoon by winning every race he contested to secure an exquisite 27.5-1 five-timer.
It was the first time the jockey rode as many winners on a domestic card, though he previously did so for Paul Nicholls at Wincanton.
As well as Hurricane Fly, Walsh won on Faugheen, Felix Yonger, Morning Assembly and City Slicker.
At Cheltenham yesterday David Pipe rectified his poor start to the Open meeting with a lucrative 5,995-1 four-timer, headed by Dell'Arca in the feature StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle.
At an event his father Martin plundered so efficiently over the years, the Pond House trainer got the afternoon under way in the perfect fashion, with a one-two in the Mallard Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, led home by 40-1 shot Home Run.
The Liquidator (6-4) looked destined for stardom when destroying three rivals in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices Hurdle, and Red Sherlock (7-2 joint favourite) rounded off a memorable occasion when retaining his unbeaten record in the Jockey Club Fine Dining Bumper.