• Racing/
  • Jezki Fights Off The Hurricane

Racing Post Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m

  • (4yo+, 2m, Class 1, 3 runners)
  • Winner €120,000 2nd €38,000 3rd €18,000 4th €6,000 5th €4,000 6th €2,000
  • Going: Good to Yielding
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 4m 6.80s
  • Off time: 17:30:38
  • Last Updated: May 2 2014, 20:07 BST

Jezki and Tony McCoy fought off Hurricane Fly to take the Racing Post Champion Hurdle and give trainer Jessie Harrington a treble at the Punchestown Festival for the second day running.

Jezki again has the legs of Hurricane Fly at Punchestown
Jezki again has the legs of Hurricane Fly at Punchestown

It was the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle hero who went to the front from the start under McCoy, and although he jumped out to his left for much of the contest, he was able to control the pace of the race throughout.

Walsh started to stoke up Hurricane Fly approaching the second-last flight, and the 10-year-old briefly looked on course to win the race for a fifth consecutive year as he drew alongside the leader.

But heading to the last, McCoy asked the 4/5 favourite to see off his challenger, and Jezki gamely responded, pulling out more and seeing off the threat posed by Hurricane Fly to score by three and a quarter lengths with Steps To Freedom, the sole other runner in the race, hunting round for a decent cheque in third.

"It was a great training performance by Jessica and I'm delighted for JP too," said the winning rider.

"To be honest, he felt better than I've ever felt him, sometimes they get confidence from winning.

"It wasn't ideal [being in front] because he has a tendency to jump to his left and it's more exaggerated when he's in front. But he was good."

In victory, he earned a quote of 5/1 from 6/1 from Sky Bet to repeat his Champion Hurdle victory at Cheltenham next season.

Jezki's owner JP McManus hailed the runner-up, telling At The Races: "He did it well, but full marks to Hurricane Fly.

"He's been an outstanding horse, coming here to win this for a fifth time, so we've a bit of catching up to do.

"I didn't get involved in the tactics as AP has ridden the horse plenty of times and knows what's he doing."

Only last month, Harrington's husband, Johnny, died, aged 77, and this was a victory tinged with emotion.

The trainer said: "It's been absolutely fantastic these last two days, unbelievable. To have three winners on Thursday and then another three is beyond my wildest dreams.

"I think he (Johnny) is doing a lot of the pushing. All the staff in the yard have done a marvellous job.

"If Jezki was beaten here people would say the Champion Hurdle was a fluke, but he came here and won again which was fantastic.

"He was very good after Cheltenham and had a good prep for this race. I was happy coming in and everything went according to plan.

"I just let AP do what he wanted. He's the man in the saddle and is the best in the world so why give him a plan.

"With today being a buzzy day, with the crowd and everything, the hood definitely helped him. He's only six, a young horse, so he'll stay hurdling for the moment.

"I'm not sure I saw much of the race, I had my eyes closed for most of it!"Willie Mullins accepted that the record-breaking Hurricane Fly was beaten fair and square and said that he will now be given time off during the summer.

He said: "Jezki is a worthy champion and he's come back well from Cheltenham. Jessie's horses are flying.

"We have no excuses with Hurricane Fly. That's it for the season and he'll go out for grass now over the summer."

Harrington had earlier won the Aon Novice Handicap Chase.with Operating (12/1), who greatly appreciated the better ground.

The trainer said: "I suppose he might end up a Galway Plate horse. I'll have to treat him like a good-ground horse."

That was swiftly followed by the victory of Burn And Turn in the seaniemac.com EBF Mares Handicap Chase.

Robbie Power, who also rode Operating, cruised through the race on the 7/1 chance and it only looked a matter of time before the jockey took it up from She's Got Grit, who battled gamely but went down by half a length.

Harrington said: "It's good that we split them up, she could have run in Operating's race as well.

"She's another one who will be kept going and is another possible for the Galway Plate."