Willie Mullins pays tribute to a ‘legend of a horse’

Willie Mullins hailed Hurricane Fly a “legend of a horse” after announcing the retirement of one of the greatest hurdlers of all time.

Willie Mullins pays tribute to a ‘legend of a horse’

Famed for his tremendous courage as well as his undoubted class, Hurricane Fly won a record-breaking 22 Grade Ones after joining the County Carlow yard of trainer Mullins in 2008.

“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,” Mullins said

“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.”

The son of Montjeu won 24 of his 32 races over jumps, including the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011 before becoming the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the crown in 2013.

Mullins pointed to his first triumph at Prestbury Park as his personal highlight. He said: “Personally I would probably say his first Champion Hurdle in Cheltenham (was the best). Having missed Cheltenham the previous two years because of niggly injuries, it was great to get him there and win it.

“There was so many good days. Going back to Cheltenham to win another Champion Hurdle having lost one broke all sorts of records and statistics.

“I suppose in the last two years his battles with Jezki caught the public imagination. His longevity stood to him.”

Discussions are ongoing regarding how and where Hurricane Fly will spend his retirement, but he is set to make a few public appearances, starting off on Irish Champions Weekend.

“We’ve not decided what he’s going to do 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 with the mind of a six-year-old,” said Mullins.

“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.

“We were invited last year but decided not to, but he can do that now.”

Hurricane Fly had a particular affinity with Leopardstown, winning each of his 10 starts at the Dublin circuit, most recently bringing the house down when clinching a fifth successive victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January.

He earned connections nearly £1.9million in prize-money and had his final career start in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil in June, when he could only finish sixth.

Ruby Walsh guided Hurricane Fly to 18 victories and saluted “the best hurdler I’ve 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 was 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.

“We had some great battles there, particularly against Jezki in the last couple of seasons, but there were those who thought he was finished at one stage a couple of seasons ago.

“He was as good as ever last season and was still winning proper Grade Ones contests – not the ’gimmes’ or walkovers that some would have you believe his career consisted of.

“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.

“For me I got to ride the best two-mile hurdler (Hurricane Fly) and chaser (Kauto Star) of my era.”

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