High in the stands at Leopardstown the newspapers were thrown in the air in triumph as Hurricane Fly won the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle; adding a seventh Grade One win to his already impressive haul and giving trainer Willie Mullins his first win in the race. Three and a half lengths back in second was Solwhit who was beaten for the fourth consecutive time by the winner. As expected Solwhit’s target was named as Aintree and not Cheltenham although he does hold an entry in the World Hurdle. Last year’s County Hurdle winner Thousand Stars ran a mighty race in third place and is expected to join his stable mate Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
|Hurricane Fly after winning at Leopardstown|
Hurricane Fly’s Champion Hurdle aspirations should be taken very seriously indeed, especially as Sunday’s win came off the back of a somewhat interrupted preparation after picking up a minor cut to a hoof after his win in last month’s Festival Hurdle and he had apparently worked only average midweek according to connections. The 9/2 and 5/1 still readily available for March look value as he clearly has some engine and also ticks all boxes labelled pace, stamina and pure class. Binocular beware, there is a Hurricane forecast for 15 March at Cheltenham!
Realt Dubh and Noble Prince duelled all the way to the line in the Grade One Frank Ward Arkle Novice Chase with Realt Dubh just snatching victory by a short head. The pair pulled ten lengths clear from third placed Mr Cracker. The pair had filled exactly the same placings in last months Grade One Bord Na Mona Chase over course and distance on that meeting Realt Dubh had prevailed by five lengths.
Flat out had taken a narrow lead when tipping up and unseating Emmet Mullins two fences from home and would surely have gone close. The winner heads straight to the Arkle at Cheltenham for which he is trading around the 16/1 and 14/1 mark. Noble Prince holds entries in the Arkle and the Jewson; he will also go straight to Cheltenham without another run.
Cathryn Fry reporting from Ireland