Following the retirement of one of the hurdling great, we take a look back at Hurricane Fly’s very best moments:
The first performance to really announce Hurricane Fly’s presence as a huge star of the future. Only a four-year-old taking on his elders, he sprinted clear to beat Go Native by 10 lengths. It was his second Grade One win having already won the Royal Bond but he was denied the chance of running in the Supreme Novice’ Hurdle through injury. It is hard to think he would not have won that given Noel Meade’s Go Native beat the likes of Medermit and Somersby.
Willie Mullins was only able to get one run into Hurricane Fly through the whole of the next season and that was the only time his old rival Solwhit was to beat him, in the 2009 Morgiana Hurdle in November. Another injury meant he missed Cheltenham again but he was sent off 3-1 for the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and Hurricane Fly edged out Solwhit by a neck.
The following season was far more straightforward for Mullins as Hurricane Fly won the Hatton’s Grace, Festival Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle, beating Solwhit in all three, and he was finally fit enough to head to Cheltenham. In a ding-dong battle up the hill he fought off Donald McCain’s Peddlers Cross, who has never been the same horse since, to win the first of his two championships.
Having lost his crown to Rock On Ruby 12 months earlier, his only defeat in three seasons, Hurricane Fly faced plenty of doubters as he came across the Irish Sea once more. But they were silenced as he gained revenge on Rock On Ruby by two and a half lengths.
Now entering the veteran stage, he suffered a setback with a foot injury in the days leading up to the race, and many – including Mullins – thought he was vulnerable. Only four went to post but they included subsequent champion hurdler Jezki and the previous season’s Triumph Hurdle winner, the ill-fated Our Conor. Hurricane Fly’s famed turn of foot saw him pull clear after the last, though, and he entered the record books winning his 19th Grade One race.
Fourth at Cheltenham and again behind Jezki at Punchestown in May, it looked the end of the road. But Mullins never lost the faith and it was a sight to behold as he rolled back the years to win a third Morgiana Hurdle, turning the tables in some style on reigning two-mile king Jezki.
Any notion that the Morgiana revival might be short lived was dismissed the following month as the great horse again beat Jezki, this time at odds on, staying on strongly albeit with Jessica Harrington’s horse a bit closer this time.
A moment those present will never forget, as he once more put Jezki to the sword before returning to one of the most emotionally-charged receptions imaginable. What made it even better is that for quite a few strides some way out it looked like he had his work cut out, before turning into his favourite home straight and picking up ominously well when it mattered. The stuff of lenegds.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved