Hurricane storms back in Morgiana
Hurricane Fly brought the house down at Punchestown as he powered to a third consecutive StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle.
Seemingly not the force of old at the end of last season, the Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old returned to his best as he gained revenge on current two-mile king Jezki, his conqueror at Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring, to land his 20th Grade One success.
Little King Robin opened up a big advantage in her usual front-running style, but the big two cut her down at the business end and though Hurricane Fly (15-8) made an error two out, he was soon back moving with menace and pinged the last before going away from Jezki at the line, winning with two and a quarter lengths in hand of the 8-13 favourite.
A delighted Mullins said: "When we took the rug off him in the parade ring many onlookers felt he was a bit heavy. But his homework suggested he was stronger than last year.
"Ruby (Walsh) was tactically very good. The onus was on the champion to deal with the pace, and it was easier for us to ride our race. It won't be always that easy through the season. Tactically we had the advantage today.
"He'll go his normal route. You would have to say that run was better than his last two runs last season."
Walsh added: "I was probably the most pessimistic person coming into Punchestown today, but he's a wonderful horse. Form can often be temporary, but class is always permanent.
"Some people may have had their doubts about him, but Kauto Star was also written off a number of times. That's racing, it's all about opinions and he got a wonderful reception from the crowd here today.
"There was nowhere to hide, he jumped well without jumping brilliant, he nodded at the first and missed the second-last, but what he's always had is plenty of guts and determination. When I got to Jezki I always thought I was going to win."
Jezki's trainer Jessica Harrington said: "He was beaten by a better horse on the day. I won't make any excuses. There was 15 lengths back to the third. He missed the last a bit, but that was all.
"As long as he's OK he'll head to Leopardstown at Christmas."
Mullins completed a double on the card when 11-8 favourite Bordini ran out an impressive winner of the Dick Grainger Memorial (Pro/Am) Flat Race.
His rider Patrick Mullins said: "I think he was quite green when I went for him and I'd say there's improvement to come."