/ Racing

Willie Mullins 'very happy' with Hurricane Fly ahead of Champion Hurdle

Updated: Monday, 10 Mar 2014 18:00 | Comments

Willie Mullins is confident of Hurricane Fly's chances in the Champion Hurdle
Willie Mullins is confident of Hurricane Fly's chances in the Champion Hurdle

Hurricane Fly bids to join the immortals by securing a third victory in what promises to be an enthralling renewal of the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

Having recorded a world record 19 Grade One victories including four Irish Champion Hurdles, four Rabobank Champion Hurdles and his two Festival triumphs, the Willie Mullins-trained superstar's place in history is already secure.

The last 10-year-old to win hurdling's biggest prize was the brilliant Sea Pigeon in 1980, who, incidentally, also struck as an 11-year-old.

Hurricane Fly dispelled any notion a son of Montjeu would not come up the Cheltenham hill when striking gold in 2011, while 12 months ago he became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the Champion Hurdle crown having lost it.

Five horses have won the race three times in Hatton's Grace (1949, 1950, 1951), Sir Ken (1952, 1953, 1954), Persian War (1968, 1969, 1970), See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987) and Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000).

A plethora of young pretenders lie in wait for Hurricane Fly's return to Prestbury Park, but Mullins could not be happier with his pride and joy after assessing his well-being at the track on Monday morning.

Mullins said: "His preparation has gone well and he has travelled over well. He's been out this morning and we're very happy with him.

"He looks very good and appears in good form.

"It is a very hot race, as a Champion Hurdle should be, but we are just focusing on our own horse and we are very happy with where we are with him.

"The track looks very good and I haven't any concerns about the ground."

The general consensus is Hurricane Fly is not as effective at Cheltenham as he is at Leopardstown and Punchestown.

However, big-race jockey Ruby Walsh does not necessarily agree, apportioning plenty of blame on himself when assessing why the champion has not been as impressive as in his homeland.

"He was too free the first year. I sat too far back on him the second year - he wasn't 100 per cent - and last year I shouldn't have followed the ones in front," Walsh told Racing UK.

"They were going too fast and I followed them. I shouldn't have.

"Racing is about pace, about judgement. I knew they were going too fast. I should have backed my own judgement and stayed where I was but instead I was thinking of all the criticism I got the year before and I kept following them.

"That was the mistake I made and the horse got me out of it. It won't happen again.

"If I hadn't followed the pace last year I'd have arrived turning in hard on the bridle and he'd have blown everybody away. But he still managed to win.

"I don't think I've done things right on him at Cheltenham. The day I'll get it right, he'll show England what he's shown Ireland."

Live television coverage of the Cheltenham Festival from 13:25 from Tuesday 11 to Friday 14 March on RTÉ One and RTE.ie (Ireland only). Live radio coverage from 13:00 each day on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra, LW 252 and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide). Television highlights from 19:00 each evening on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Ireland only).

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