His trainer Willie Mullins was pleased with the landmark, but none too excited by the way in which Hurricane Fly reached it, describing it as one of the horse’s “least impressive performances.” Nonetheless, second win in the Morgiana Hurdle seals his place in the annals.
Hurricane Fly started his racing career in France in 2006. He ran twice as a juvenile, and three times in Group races in his second season. It wasn’t his scene, and he didn’t win any of those races. The move to Ireland, Willie Mullins and hurdling made him.
After wins in his first two races, a maiden hurdle at Punchestown and a Grade 3 at Auteuil, he’s had 19 races, every one of them at the highest level, and all bar one over the distance of two miles. In that time his only defeats have come in a four runner Punchestown Hurdle and in the 2012 Champion Hurdle.
A second measure of his astonishing ability is that he’s been expected to win pretty much all of those races. He’s gone off favourite in 15 of those wins, and odds on in 11 of them. Those prices reached a new height of bookmaker miserliness yesterday, when his price was 1/16. If they argued that even that was a licence to print money for punters, it wasn’t a licence to print very much.
Hurricane Fly is a nine year old now, and will be ten by the time Cheltenham comes round in March. His price for the Champion Hurdle eased slightly, but both Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh said that they expected plenty of improvement from the horse. Certainly the age of ten is no barrier to winning a Champion Hurdle. Hatton’s Grace (1950) and Sea Pigeon (1980) both did so, and both went on to retain that title a year later. Maybe he’ll need to do that, and set another record of four Champion Hurdle successes before he’s widely recognised not just as a record breaker, but also as a truly great racehorse.