• Racing/
  • Fly Seals Champion Hat Trick

BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m

  • (4yo+, 2m, Class 1, 5 runners)
  • Winner €71,500 2nd €20,900 3rd €9,900 4th €3,300
  • Going: Heavy (Soft in place on the Hurdle course)
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 4m 5.10s
  • Off time: 13:55:26
  • Last Updated: January 27 2013, 17:30 GMT

Willie Mullins hailed Hurricane Fly as back to his very best as he recorded his third successive win in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in most impressive fashion.

Hurricane Fly: Cut above his rivals in Irish Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly: Cut above his rivals in Irish Champion Hurdle

The nine-year-old never came off the bridle in registering his 14th Grade One success, setting himself up perfectly for his bid to regain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

He was always travelling easily as stablemate Thousand Stars and One Cool Shabra cut out the early running in the Grade One contest that was run in strong winds and sleet.

Paul Townend had a look through his legs ahead of the home straight to see where the 1/6 favourite was and he would have seen Ruby Walsh travelling ominously well in his slipstream.

Walsh eased him to the head of affairs rounding that turn and the pair quickly opened up a commanding advantage before stretching clear to record a commanding five length success.

There was a rousing finish for the minor honours as the patiently ridden Binocular - who travelled well for a long way - attempted to snatch second from Thousand Stars but he lost out in a head-bobbing finish to the grey to leave Mullins with a one-two in the feature.

Mullins said of the winner: "He's well used to these conditions and he flies through that ground so everything went according to plan.

"We didn't know what One Cool Shabra was going to do, but we weren't going to be hanging around with either horse (Hurricane Fly and Thousand Stars) if there was no pace.

"When you look at the race it was a tip-top race. Everything had gone 100% in his preparation."

Mullins went on: "Ruby said he's as good as he ever saw him. He gave him a squeeze turning off the last bend and said it was just like he had jumped in.

"He took off like he was on summer ground and I just hope to keep him in that form over the next six or seven weeks.

"I've had faith in him all year and he seems to be in the sort of form he was two years ago."

Walsh was also delighted with Hurricane Fly's run.

"I thought it was a very good performance. It was a good even gallop, he travelled well, he jumped well and he moved away effortlessly from Paul's horse (Thousand Stars)," he told At The Races.

"I thought AP (McCoy) might follow me on Binocular but he was a bit keen early on and probably didn't help himself.

"In fairness to Binocular he hadn't run for so long so he was bound to be a bit fresh the way he ran. We had fitness on our side and we were going to use it.

"This year he's had a longer and deeper preparation. He's probably a fitter horse than he was last year. Hopefully that will stand him in good stead in March.

"All the Champion Hurdle trials in England are in the next fortnight and we will know a lot more then."

On Thousand Stars, Mullins said: "He ran a cracker and is coming back to himself - we may keep him for the Aintree Hurdle. They've brought that race back to Thursday this year so the gap between it and Cheltenham is that bit tighter."

The stewards inquired into the running and riding of Binocular but after interviewing both Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy they accepted their explanations.

Henderson stated that McCoy was not tied to any instructions as he knew the horse well and that he was having his first run since March and the weather had held up his preparations, despite him being the same weight as for his last run.

He was satisfied with the ride but expressed the horse would be seen to better effect on better ground.

McCoy explained that he intended to follow Hurricane Fly but before the second-last he knew he would not be able to challenge the winner while still hoping to obtain second place.

Despite riding out and squeezing all the way up the straight he was unable to get past the second horse and added Binocular was inclined to lean left, showing he was tired.

"The stewards had a look at it and they were quite happy. There's nothing more to say about it," said Frank Berry racing manager to Binocular's owner JP McManus.

Hurricane Fly is now a clear favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle with Leeds firm Sky Bet who cut the nine year old to 5/2 from 4s for Cheltenham glory.

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