Hurricane Fly: 'The best around'
Ruby Walsh and British Horseracing Authority handicapper Phil Smith both believe Hurricane Fly was a comfortable and deserving winner on Sunday.
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The Willie Mullins-trained nine year old finished two and a half lengths clear of Jezki in the Grade One Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown but some observers felt that the result could have been different if the runner-up had got a clear run.
However, neither Smith, the BHA's head of senior handicapping, nor, less surprisingly, Walsh, felt that was the case with Smith of the view that Hurricane Fly showed his superiority despite the race not being run to suit.
"He's the best around at the moment. It was a bit of a messy race," he told At The Races.
"The way the race was run didn't actually help any of them with Captain Cee Bee going off 20 lengths clear and so on and he's only been beaten around 10 lengths by the winner and we know what Captain Cee Bee can and cannot do.
"I suspect that Jezki has probably improved a bit, Hurricane Fly has run below his best but still won comfortably and Our Conor was below his best.
"He ran to just about 170. We think he's won easily in the end. If we were giving them handicap marks to try to get equality between them next time, we'd want Hurricane Fly to be giving Jezki 5lb judged on that race yesterday.
"The winner came there cruising and he was by far the best horse in the race."
Walsh described the Montjeu gelding as a "once-in-a-lifetime" horse.
"He was very impressive. He travelled beautifully and quickened up impressively," he told Racing UK. "He has everything - speed, stamina, he jumps brilliantly.
"To have won 18 Grade Ones is an incredible feat and it's a privilege to ride him. He's a once in a lifetime kind of horse. I was lucky enough to have ridden Kauto Star, but to have come across Hurricane Fly too is incredible.
"I love riding him and he's finally starting to get the recognition he deserves. He travelled beautifully yesterday and quickened up really impressively and he seems as good as ever.
"Willie Mullins has done a great job. It's not that easy to keep these horses going and make them last, and it would be incredible if he can go to Cheltenham this year for a fourth time.
"I think he could have won four Champion Hurdles already. He missed out the first year through injury and he wasn't quite as sharp in the middle year. I rode him for speed that day and was probably far too back on him. He's a cracking horse, won two Champion Hurdles and hopefully he can make it a third in March," Walsh added.