Cheltenham Festival 2013: Hurricane Fly regains Champion Hurdle

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Ruby Walsh rides 2011 winner to victory

Hurricane Fly became the first horse to regain the Stan James Champion Hurdle since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 as he showed substantial guts to go with his undoubted class at Cheltenham.

Winner of the race in 2011 but beaten into third when an odds-on favourite 12 months ago, plenty doubted the nine-year-old's chances in the weeks and days leading up to his Festival return.

However, his army of fans showed their support on the day and by post-time Hurricane Fly was once again a warm order as the 13-8 favourite.

Once the tapes went up, last year's champion Rock On Ruby was sent into the lead in the first-time blinkers, closely tracked by Zarkandar and Countrywide Flame, with Hurricane Fly further back under Ruby Walsh.

Supporters of the Willie Mullins-trained market leader would have been worried at halfway as Walsh was already getting lower in the saddle.

But he began to pick up coming down the hill and was in the lead soon after jumping the second-last.

Hurricane Fly jumped the final flight smoothly and dug deep on the run-in to score by two and a half lengths.

Rock On Ruby ran a tremendous race to finish second in defence of his crown, while lasts year's Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame similarly ran a blinder in third.

Walsh said: "I can't say I was overly confident - from the word 'go' he didn't travel as well as he can.

"He's an unbelievably big heart for a small horse.

"He made a mistake or two, but he's as tough as nails.

"I was in front a good two furlongs too soon.

"He pinged the last and I'm glad he got it back to show everyone he's a true champion hurdler."

Mullins said: "We knew he was in good form all year.

"He was wining by far what I thought were the best trials in Ireland and we got luck in running.

"Last year was so disappointing, but since he came back this year he has been much heavier and stronger.

"Every gallop he's had, every race he's had, he's bounced back and taken it all in his stride.

"He was so aggressive in the pre-parade ring and he wanted to get on with the job.

"I was a bit worried at halfway. They'd gone such a pace and Ruby must have known that, too.

"Tactically, Ruby has a clock in his head and confidence in this horse as well.

"That was a big plus for this horse as a lot of other guys would maybe have taken the stick out at halfway to keep him with the pace.

"Ruby just stayed where the horse was comfortable.

"He's the champion hurdler again now.

"We'll look at Punchestown now, but I'm also very keen on the French Champion Hurdle.

"It's over three miles and one (furlong) but I think he'll stay."

Rock On Ruby's trainer Harry Fry said: "We've gone out there and served it up to them and just beaten by a true champion and a better horse on the day.

"We couldn't have asked for anymore. As always, he's put his all on the line and galloped from start to finish.

"Obviously we would have been delighted to have won, but to finish second to a champion like Hurricane Fly is no disgrace.

"It looked as though we might just have him (Hurricane Fly) on the ropes, but he is a true champion and has picked us up.

"Noel Fehily said he's run as well, if not better, than last year."

Trainer John Quinn said of Countrywide Flame: "You had three Champion Hurdle winners, two Triumph Hurdle winners and a Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner - this was a really good renewal.

"If he's OK he could go for the two-and-a-half-mile race at Aintree (Aintree Hurdle) and if he's OK after that I'll think about the Chester Cup.

"If he's OK he'll run and if he comes back and tells us he needs a break he'll have a break.

"He's as tough as boots and doesn't know when he's beaten."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?