A good start is half the battle for Hurricane Fly

I thought it was gas as bookmakers’ representatives, literally, fell over themselves attempting to better each other with reaction to Hurricane Fly’s success in last Sunday’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

What’s so funny is that they continue to delude themselves that punters actually care. Too many have been humiliated at counters to pay any heed to that lot.

Generally speaking they were inclined to push out Hurricane Fly for the Champion Hurdle, a typical response being 6-1 from 5s.

We really are too long in the game to take a whole lot of notice and the overriding feeling, based on a deep cynicism, is the reason they marginally lengthened his price is they were all too short about him in the first place anyway.

Looking at Hurricane Fly’s display in the cold light of day, there wasn’t much to fault in the performance.

He arrived at Punchestown on the back of two below-part efforts at the end of last season and the air of invincibility that had surrounded him had long disappeared.

Hurricane Fly will never again be regarded as invincible, it is the inevitable consequence of managing only third to Rock On Ruby and Overturn at Cheltenham in March.

But what Punchestown told us is the wheels are at least back on the wagon and that this was a promising start to the campaign.

I’m at a loss to understand what off-course bookmakers found disappointing in this display. He’s not a front-runner, never has been, but the alternative was for Ruby Walsh to allow a relatively slow pace and leave Hurricane Fly vulnerable to Go Native, who is a quick horse.

That was never an option and Walsh decided it was better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Hurricane Fly’s jumping was, typically, quick and accurate and he and Go Native didn’t half head for the final flight at a rate of knots.

So fast were they going that Go Native couldn’t get his landing gear out in time, at the back of the flight, and paid the penalty.

I think most believe Hurricane Fly would have won in any case - he was maybe three parts of a length in front at the time - and there was much to admire in the success.

A good start is half the battle is an old adage and that’s exactly what this was. But we’re not getting carried away.

The trick for Hurricane Fly now is the build on this, something he failed to do last season.

At Cork last Sunday two pressroom colleagues were discussing Dundalk on the previous Friday night and the demotion of the Paul Hennessy-trained First Friday, after he had won a ten-furlong-plus handicap.

One thought he should have kept the contest and the other felt there was a case for reversing placings.

At the time, I hadn’t seen the race, but watched it last Tuesday and the head-on to boot. Conclusion, this was a bad decision.

And that’s from someone who has consistently preached that where the stewards cannot be certain the placings have been affected that they should always find against the perpetrator and in favour of the victim.

When Duntle lost the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown in September, after beating Chachamaidee by a short head, I wrote here in favour of the stewards. And, of course, their original decision was upheld on appeal.

But I don’t think there is any comparison between Leopardstown and Dundalk. What First Friday did at Dundalk could be best described as mildly intimidating Balmont Flyer.

But Balmont Flyer got to the front inside the furlong pole and still wasn’t good enough, as First Friday came back to beat him by a nose.

There is surely only one question that needed to be answered and it is: was the result affected?

To my way of thinking, it wasn’t in any shape or form and the best horse definitely won.

Hennessy decided to lodge an appeal with the Turf Club on Tuesday morning and, if there’s any justice, will win it.

Punters who are willing to trade at seriously tight odds have long been a puzzle to me.

Take Willie Mullins’ Simenon at Punchestown a week ago. He ran in a conditions hurdle and certainly had to be regarded as the most likely winner.

But there were a handful of horses against him who had a life and he didn’t rate what might be regarded as a total certainty.

All betting on horse racing is now driven by Betfair and he was really strong on the machine.

So strong was he that, if one had both the courage and the resources, it was possible, at odds not too far off 1-3, to lay him to win the price of a half-decent bungalow.

In the end he trailed home in a well-beaten fourth of six and there had to be Betfair players who found it hard enough to get out of the scratcher come Sunday morning!

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