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Was this the most exciting finish in the long history of horse racing?

By Nevin Farrell

It was like something straight from the pages of a film script - a nail-biting dash to the finish line between two horses with two of the greatest jump jockeys of all-time aboard them.

The excitement-loving writers decided to hand a narrow victory to a legendary horse who entered the record books with an age-defying race that sent punters into a frenzy.

Except it wasn't a fictional plot - but Northern Ireland's own real-life Hurricane Fly, who handed his owners another dream chapter in his fairytale career on Monday.

The 10-year-old gelding, owned by Belfast's George Creighton and Rose Boyd from Crossgar, crossed the line to snatch victory from fierce foe Jezki by just a nose at Leopardstown racecourse.

And to add to the scintillating scenes, two of the greatest riders - Ruby Walsh and Moneyglass man Tony McCoy - were on Hurricane Fly and Jezki respectively - prompting many to bill it as the most exciting horse race ever.

The two mounts have been dominant forces in hurdling with Jezki the current holder of the coveted Cheltenham Champion hurdle crown that was wrestled from Hurricane Fly who won Cheltenham twice, in 2011 and 2013.

As the drama unfolded on Monday in Leopardstown, Jezki hit the front after the home turn, but Hurricane Fly was in his slipstream and there was nothing between them as they jumped the last.

It was Hurricane Fly, however, who dashed on to record a memorable half-length win. For horse race fans in Northern Ireland it was one of the best sporting moments of 2014.

The flying horse's trainer, Willie Mullins, confirmed his superstar status and said: "I'll never have another horse like him. He's unique."

A spokesman for Hurricane Fly's owners, George Creighton's grandson Lewis, said the thoroughbred had defied expectations.

He said: "We are delighted. I can't believe he is still winning races at the top level nearly seven years on from his first - incredible stuff.

"All credit to Willie and his team and Harold Kirk who bought him for us! All being well, we will now look forward to the Irish Champion Hurdle at the end if January."

Monday's success extended its world record of Grade One victories to 21.

Crossgar and east Down is a hotbed for talented horses and Billy Walker, chairman of Down District Council, is pleased with the ongoing success of Hurricane Fly. Villagers have been singing the praises of their beloved horse.

And, indeed, Billy Walker, from nearby Killyleagh, takes more than just a passing interest in Hurricane Fly and has won a pound or two.

"Horse racing may be a gambling sport but it does no harm if you are getting a good horse with links to your district," he said.

Local bookmakers have been finding huge interest in Hurricane Fly and paid out a big sum when it won as the 5/6 race favourite.

Toal's Bookmakers has an outlet in Crossgar and the horse was heavily backed there because of its local links, the firm confirmed.

Toal's spokesman Michael Martin said: "Hurricane Fly is one of the best and as a veteran is coming to the end of its career, but it is well supported throughout Northern Ireland because of its local links.

"We tend to get more attention on the horses when there is a local link and it is great to have good horses from here."

Hurricane Fly, a four-legged legend and punters’ fave

  • Although bred in Ireland, Hurricane Fly began his career in France after selling for ¤65k as a yearling at Goffs to trainer Jean-Luc Pelletan.
  •  Hurricane Fly's joint owners are Belfast-based George Creighton, who is retired from the construction industry, and Rose Boyd, who is based at the Rademon estate at Crossgar in Co Down.
  •  He turns 11 tomorrow and an early birthday present on Monday saw the horse extend his unbeaten record on the Leopardstown course to nine.
  • The horse's trainer Willie Mullins says the horse is likely to bid for a fifth victory in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 25.
  •  Hurricane Fly is one of the many top-class horses which has been sired by Montjeu.

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