Punchestown Festival 2011  

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Hurricane Fly Awesome in Rabobank Champion Hurdle

1 Hurricane Fly 1/2F
2 Thousand Stars 9/1
3 Binocular 5/1
6 ran Distances: 5l, 4l, 5½l
TIME 3m 49.60s (slow by 3.60s)

The Grade 1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle promised to be a highlight of the 2011 Punchestown Festival and it did not disappoint as the Willie Mullins-trained Hurricane Fly cruised to his ninth, and arguably most-impressive Grade 1 victory of his career. The 1/2 favourite defeated stablemate Thousand Stars by five lengths.

Hurricane Fly
© Grossick Racing Photography

Hurricane Fly

“He was just awesome and that’s the best I’ve seen from him,” said trainer Willie Mullins. “This is his track on our home ground although I confess that I wasn’t so confident halfway through the race. We knew it would be a messy race but I thought it would suit him and Ruby said that he was always travelling.

“There are no big plans for him, I’ll just concentrate on getting him home in one piece and I’d imagine our focus will be based around Cheltenham next season and then come on here. What we have done this year is enough and I wouldn’t mind repeating the dose.

“You never know what will happen in the future but he was so strong and so well before this race that it would have taken a fair horse to beat him in the form he was in today.

“Thousand Stars came second and held up the Irish form as well. I’m going to see what his Flat mark is and we might run him on the Flat over the summer as he has improved a lot.”

Jockey Ruby Walsh added: “He has come back well today and beaten horses like Thousand Stars and Binocular - they are high-class hurdlers.

“It was a messy enough race early on. I was of the opinion as I said to Willie beforehand that if they walked, I was going to stand it as this chap isn’t going to walk. He is a fast horse as well as a horse that stays. He jumped super and showed just how much class he has today.

“I steadied up entering the straight and was thinking had I steadied up too much to let Katie back into the race on Thousand Stars so thought I’d better mosey on! I was in front long enough but that’s the way it worked out. He’s an incredible little horse.

“I watched him on Tuesday morning and he worked spectacular so I was never worried about him today. Who knows what next year will bring but you wouldn’t be getting off him.”.

Trainer Philip Hobbs and owner Diana Whateley, successful with Captain Chris in Thursday’s Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase, enjoyed a second win of the week when Wishfull Thinking defied top-weight to win the Mick The Tent Memorial Novice Handicap Chase.

“He had got a lot keener on his last two runs and earlier on we thought he wanted three miles but he’s a got a bit of pace as well,” said Hobbs.

Mullins and Walsh earlier teamed up when Uncle Junior won the Stephens Green Hibernian Green Handicap Chase. “Ruby was just excellent once again,” said Mullins. “This ground is as dry as he’d want and I don’t think there is much for him now, maybe he could go for something like the Kerry National. It was a great run from Pomme Tiepy to come third and that’s probably her last run as she’s in foal to King’s Theatre.

Jamie Codd steered The Baler to a five-length success in the opening KFM Hunters Chase for the Bishopscourt Stud in the colours of Johnstownbridge-based owner-breeder Ger Langan.

“He won his point-to-point and then we took him to the Brightwells sale at Cheltenham in November. But he choked and got colic and nearly died there and we were lucky to have got him home,” said trainer Philip Dempsey.

“He wants good ground so we could keep him going but he’ll be a nice horse for next season.”

Codd added: “I arrived at the front to soon. I got hampered a little bit at the first and then a horse fell in front of me at the second and I got baulked - I was hanging out the side of him at one point.

“They went very quick and he jumped beautifully but, the minute I hit the front, he had a right good look around. He did the same when I won a point-to-point on him but he had loads left in the tank and the loose horse coming to him helped today.”

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