The time had to come, and most would surely agree that the decision is the correct one. However, a Jumps season without the wonderful Hurricane Fly is sure to feel a little empty.
Over the past dozen years or so, he developed into one of the greatest hurdlers of all time. Completely dominant in Ireland he also swept to glorious victories at the Cheltenham Festival. A stunning hurdles career ends with 24 wins from 31 starts, including 22 at Grade 1 level. The Fly; all silky style and swagger, captured the imagination of an adoring public. For some, it took time to warm to his charms, but by the end of his illustrious career the masses were united in their respect for the wonderful diminutive star.
Oozing talent as a novice, it was unfortunate that he had to miss the Cheltenham Festival of 2009 due to a setback, having already beaten the Supreme Novices’ winner by ten lengths earlier in the season. He confirmed that form with Go Native at Punchestown in the Champion Novice Hurdle when cruising to a seven length success.
Further niggling injuries disrupted his six-year-old campaign, though he did return to the track to win the Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. The following winter was far more like it, with Mullins’ stable star sweeping all before him. He powered to five Grade 1 victories including the Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham and Punchestown.
Hurricane Fly enjoyed a spell of almost unparalleled domination. From May 2008 through to January 2014, he was victorious 21 times from 23 starts. To maintain such a consistent level of performance is quite astounding. Plenty of praise has to go to trainer Willie Mullins, who managed to bring his champion to the boil at exactly the right times.
Late in his career, after yet another success in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, Mullins said of his charge: “I think he's the best anyone has ever trained over jumps. I'll never have another horse like him. He's unique. When he got over the last he put his ears back and no horse I've ever seen can battle like him.”
He remained undefeated at his favourite track, and after his fifth victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle, it was Ruby Walsh’s turn to wax lyrical, saying: “He's come back here now and won five of these and 22 Grade Ones, he's a pleasure to ride, he's a credit to Willie and the staff at Closutton, he's just a marvellous little horse.”
Walsh then paid Hurricane Fly the greatest compliment by comparing him to equine stars he has had the good fortune to ride, when adding: “This horse means a huge amount to me. I ride so many horses with potential but for horses to go and deliver and to go and repeat it and deliver - Kauto (Star) managed it, Big Buck's, it takes iron horses to do it and that's what they are, they're incredible horses and I'm just very lucky to have come along at a time when these good horses are around.”
And so say all of us Ruby. Hurricane Fly gave us moments of pure magic. Whether the incredible reception he received from 50,000 ecstatic fans after his win at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011; or the drama of the pulsating finish to his final Ryanair Hurdle victory at Leopardstown, when pinning back his ears and sticking out his neck to fight off Jezki and stable companion Arctic Fire.
It seems only right to leave the final words to Willie Mullins, who yesterday said: “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. 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. He's a legend of a horse.”