Ted Walsh believes Hurricane Fly can bring claim a second Champion Hurdle for Willie Mullins if he brings his best form to Cheltenham.
The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old battled to victory over Peddlers Cross in the 2011 renewal but lost his crown when a disappointing third to Rock On Ruby last year.
Since that defeat, Hurricane Fly has won four times, including claiming a third consecutive Irish Champion Hurdle on his last start.
Speaking at the RTÉ Sport/Betfair Cheltenham Preview, Walsh said: “From what we have seen all winter, he is back to his best. My only slight reservation is that he has never brought his ‘A’ game to Cheltenham. Even when he beat Peddlers Cross, he ran keen and he didn’t show what we had seen in Ireland. Last year he wasn’t up to scratch."
Hurricane Fly is set to face a number of highly rated contenders with Zarkandar, Grandouet and current champion Rock On Ruby among those being backed to upset the favourite.
But Walsh believes there are at least as many doubts about those contenders as there are about the favourite, though last year's winner Rock On Ruby is worthy of respect.
He said: “Zarkandar was not overly impressive when he won at Wincanton and Grandouet got run over by Simonsig in a bit of work recently. Rock On Ruby has won a Champion Hurdle at the track, rolls on down the hill and keeps on going well. He is the biggest danger."
In the eyes of some pundits, the statistics are against Hurricane Fly with Comedy Of Errors, the 1973 and 1975 winner, the only horse ever to regain the Champion Hurdle. However Walsh is not concerned about that record on the basis, not least because so few have attempted the feat.
He said: "Not many horses try to regain the Champion Hurdle after losing it. Stats are there and if you want to dish them out you can dish them out all day long about nine-year-olds and ten-year-olds, or greys, spotted and piebald horses.
"I don’t think it will make any difference. Hurricane Fly doesn’t know anything about the stats."
"It is not vintage opposition. If Hurricane Fly brings his ‘A’ game to Cheltenham, the one that we have seen here in many occasions, I think he will win the Champion Hurdle."
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