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Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh lead the glowing tributes to 'legend of a horse' Hurricane Fly

By Ashley Iveson

Trainer Willie Mullins saluted what he described as a "legend of a horse" as Hurricane Fly was retired from racing.

He said: "He's come back into training and he's really well in himself, but having had a chat with the owners, they were keen enough to retire him while he is still in great order.

"What can you say about him? He's a legend of a horse. This day was always going to come and it's great that we're doing it on our terms, rather than due to an injury or something like that.

"He's a horse who has everything - speed and stamina and an incredible bravery and aggressiveness. I think those are the key factors.

"We've not decided what he's going to do as of yet. He's still here and was ridden out as normal this morning. He's still a handful and I've no doubt he's a rising 12-year-old who has the mind of a six-year-old.

"He's going to the Curragh to parade on Irish Champions Weekend and he's also going to Merano in Italy to parade there at their big Gold Cup meeting in September.

"He's also just been invited to go to the big meeting at Milan in October, without them knowing he was going to be retired."

Hurricane Fly had many memorable battles with Jezki over the years, with the latter's trainer Jessica Harrington paying tribute to an "amazing" horse.

Harrington said: "Personally, I'm delighted he's retiring safe and sound and in one piece.

"He is an amazing horse to win all those races. That's testament to the horse's longevity, but also Willie's training of him.

"We thought last season, with Jezki having beaten him twice (Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and Racing Post Champion Hurdle at Punchestown), that he (Hurricane Fly) would be kicked out of the way.

"It obviously didn't work out that way as I had to wait until Punchestown (Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle) before we could beat him again.

"He was a great flag-bearer for Irish racing."

Paul Townend rode Hurricane Fly eight times, winning six Grade Ones.

"He played a huge part in my career," said Townend.

"It's sad that he's retired, but, at the same time, he's still in one piece and is a happy horse.

"I had my first ride in a Grade One on him (when winning the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in 2008) and was lucky enough to have some great days with him.

"He was a tough horse with a huge heart and a will to win.

"I owe him a lot."

Hurricane Fly will always be associated with Ruby Walsh, with the multiple Irish champion jockey hailing his partner as "the best hurdler I have ever sat on".

Walsh said: "It was a decision we knew was coming - but it's still strange to be talking about Hurricane Fly's retirement.

"I stayed out of the process and left it to Willie Mullins and the owners to make the call. If it was (left) to me it would have been a really hard call to make still.

"Quite simply, Hurricane Fly is the best hurdler I have ever sat on. The only hurdler you can compare him to in my lifetime is Istabraq.

"The Fly was back in training and still looks a million dollars. But the bold and brave choice had to be made on whether to retire him or go on for another season. But I'm sure when the news sinks in fully, it was the right decision.

"He is some horse and his record speaks for itself. Of his 22 Grade One wins, five of them came at Leopardstown and he was unbeaten at the Dublin track.

"He was as good as ever last season and was still winning proper Grade Ones contests - not 'gimmes' or walkovers that some would have you believe.

"There was also a school of thought that said Cheltenham didn't really suit him.

"Really? He'd already won two Champion Hurdles and I was still thinking about him as a Champion Hurdle contender last season - even at 11-years-old.

"His longevity and durability is what will mark him out as one of the true greats in jumps racing.

"I've been so lucky with horses like Hurricane Fly, Kauto Star and Big Buck's because without them I wouldn't have had the career I've had. Any jockey will tell you that you're only as good as the horses you ride.

"It's fitting that Hurricane Fly retires from racing where he always was on the track - at the top."

Belfast Telegraph


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