Fly wings into Champion contention

HURRICANE FLY confirmed Punchestown Festival superiority over Solwhit when beating his rival by a snug length and a half in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse yesterday.

Fly wings into Champion contention

There was only a neck between them in April and Solwhit, unlike Hurricane Fly, had the benefit of an outing already this season.

But it made no difference and if we saw a possible champion hurdler here then it was obviously Hurricane Fly, who has a real style and swagger about him.

Stan James reacted by thumping Willie Mullins’ gelding into 7-2 joint favourite, from 7’s, with Menorah for Cheltenham. Both Paddy Power and Boylesports offer 4-1.

Aitmatov carried them along in front of Oscar Dan Dan, with the big two waiting in the wings to pounce.

Davy Russell, on Solwhit, was the first to make his move and the combination powered ahead off the home turn.

Hurricane Fly was soon out after the leader, with Paul Townend sitting quietly with a double handful. Hurricane Fly joined issue over the final flight, but didn’t immediately go clear and the issue was in the balance for a couple of strides.

But only for a couple of strides and soon Hurricane Fly was nicely on top and cosily clear at the line. Voler La Vedette and Mourad stayed on stoutly to fill the minor placings.

“That was fantastic for his first run of the season”, exclaimed a clearly delighted Mullins.

“He pulled early on and Paul did well to give him a breather. The horse was very professional and put his head down and did his job.

“I think he has improved since last season and, hopefully, will continue to improve. I’d say he will improve fitness-wise.

“There is great credit due to Peter Roe (Fairyhouse manager) and to HRI for organising the meeting, but it is not ideal having it so close to Christmas.

“I will have to go home and see how Hurricane Fly comes out of this before making plans. The races I am thinking of are Leopardstown at Christmas and the Irish Champion Hurdle (also at Leopardstown).”

Russell was philosophical following the defeat of Solwhit. Said Russell: “I am over the moon with my lad, very happy, but there are no excuses.

“We were just beaten by a better horse. I have gone over the race five times in my head to see if I could have done anything different.

“I’ve concluded that, no matter what I did, Hurricane Fly would still have beaten us.”

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