Ground ‘not ideal’ for Fly

Willie Mullins admits conditions at Leopardstown are "probably not ideal" for Hurricane Fly as he goes in search of a record fifth victory in tomorrow’s BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle.

Ground ‘not ideal’ for Fly

The incredible 11-year-old matched the mighty Istabraq in winning the prestigious Grade One event for the fourth year on the spin 12 months ago and returns to his beloved Leopardstown at the top of his game as he bids to make yet more history.

The champion trainer’s pride and joy is once again opposed by last season’s Champion Hurdle hero Jezki, with the score between the pair standing at four-two in favour of Hurricane Fly, who has come out on top in two meetings this season.

The ground is unlikely to be as testing this weekend, however.

Mullins said: “Our fellow really excels on soft ground, so it’s probably not ideal, but at this stage we have to take what we get.

“I hope it will be a good race on Sunday. Hurricane Fly is a small but very strong horse with a big heart and he doesn’t like to lose, winning is part of his make-up and he’s very determined.

“You wouldn’t think he was an 11-year-old on a morning. Early in his career he missed races through injuries and needed time out every so often as he was so strong and wilful.”

Hurricane Fly will be looking to make it 10 starts unbeaten at the track as he bids to register a remarkable 22nd victory at the top level.

“He’s just good wherever he goes, not just Leopardstown,” said Mullins.

“It will be good for racing (if he can beat Istabraq’s record).”

While most will focus on another clash between Hurricane Fly and Jezki, Mullins warns it would be dangerous to rule out his other runner in the race, Arctic Fire.

Five years younger than his illustrious stable companion, he was not far behind Hurricane Fly and Jezki when third in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas.

“Artic Fire is improving all the time and is a young horse, so it’s not just a two-horse race,” Mullins told At The Races.

“It was a huge run the last day. The last two furlongs in Leopardstown are searching and Arctic Fire went the whole way with them to the line.

“There is more scope for improvement there I think.”

The prospect of better ground gives Jessica Harrington hope Jezki can turn the tables on his old adversary.

She said: “He did a nice bit of work on Tuesday and is in good form. It would be great to get nice ground and no rain.

“I see that Willie is looking for rain, so we all want different things! They will have some new ground which is great.

“We got nearer than we’ve ever got to Hurricane Fly (at Leopardstown) over Christmas. We were only half a length behind him.

“We’ll make a race of it and it will be a great spectacle for everybody that comes racing.

“There was never going to be any easy races for him this season. He was always going to be taking on Hurricane Fly and he is a formidable opponent.”

While Harrington is delighted with her stable star’s condition, she believes he will not hit his peak until defending his crown at Cheltenham in March.

“He’s pretty close to 100 per cent but is always a better horse in the spring. He comes to life then, and better ground certainly helps,” said the trainer.

“March is the day that we really want him.”

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