The morning after is often the worst time for a trainer, particularly one of a horse with physical vicissitudes. So Willie Mullins was particularly pleased to report his champion two-mile hurdler Hurricane Fly none the worse overnight for his faultless seasonal comeback at Leopardstown, bright-eyed and cool-legged after his first race for nearly eight months on Sunday.
The fragile gelding's clinical, wide-margin defeat of some smart rivals in the Irish Champion Hurdle, his 10th Grade One victory, left him odds-on in most betting lists for a successful defence of his Cheltenham title six weeks today. "He's fine this morning," Mullins said yesterday, "which is great news. I hope he can improve for his run but if I can get him to Cheltenham in the same sort of form I'd be happy enough."
A day on from Hurricane Fly's six-and-a half-length romp away from Oscars Well, the man in the saddle, Ruby Walsh, was trying to remain measured in his analysis of what he had felt from the eight-year-old. "He was very impressive," Walsh said. "But I was surprised he won by so far. Oscars Well ran a really good race but maybe Thousand Stars [third] didn't run as good as he can, and obviously Unaccompanied [fourth] didn't fire. But he settled beautifully and jumped really well in a true-run race. It was a specially good jump at the second-last, when he jumped past Thousand Stars and joined Oscars Well. He came alive and the race was over."
The heavy conditions at Leopardstown were blamed for the below-par showing of Unaccompanied, who started second favourite on the strength of her previous defeat of Thousand Stars, and a decision has yet to be made about her Champion Hurdle participation. "I think the ground got to her," said her owners', Moyglare Stud, racing manager, Stan Cosgrove. "She's only a five-year-old and it was hard work."
Though Hurricane Fly was given a clean bill of health, Gold Cup candidate Diamond Harry was not. The Nick Williams-trained nine-year-old, fifth to Midnight Chase in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham, will be checked by vets today for a possible breathing problem.
Chris McGrath's Nap: The Laodicean (3.50 Folkestone)
Undone by heavy ground last time and will have more favourable conditions today.
Next best: Val Mondo (3.40 Taunton)
Can build on his latest, promising effort with the step up in trip of more than two furlongs.
One to watch: The performance of Boston Bob (Willie Mullins) at Leopardstown on Sunday surely makes him an Irish banker for the three-mile novice hurdle at Cheltenham.Reuse content