Hurricane Fly battles to fourth victory in Irish Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly won the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle for the fourth time with a battling victory over Our Conor.
Last Updated: 26/01/14 4:04pm
The 4/7 favourite maintained his perfect record at Leopardstown and claimed his fourth straight win in the contest, taking his overall Grade One tally to 19 victories.
Despite a midweek scare after suffering a stone bruise, the brilliant Hurricane Fly travelled with his usual zest for Walsh and took over from front-runner Captain Cee Bee approaching the last.
Danny Mullins had tracked his move on Our Conor, who got his head in front briefly after taking the final flight in great style, but Hurricane Fly fought back like a true champion to win by a length-and-a-half.
Jezki was held up throughout the contest and, although seemingly holding every chance turning into the straight, couldn't get to the front three and finished a close fourth.
Walsh said: "I just rode the race as I found it. In fairness to Hurricane, he quickened up well. He wasn't great at the last, but when I got serious with him he found plenty. Stamina was never going to be an issue with him."
Mullins said: "That was a huge relief. I have huge respect for the horse to do what he did, coming off the bit of work he did during the week.
"If he had been an ordinary horse he wouldn't have run today. It was his worst bit of work ever. I was so disappointed coming off the gallops. I was saying to myself, 'Is the dream over with him and has he had enough?'.
"Thankfully we found he had a bruised foot. He seemed fine the next morning and he's been fine since. We had to run and take our chance. We did all the tests on him and everything was coming back right.
"These races only come around once a year. I would have liked to have had another week with him. I thought when Our Conor came upsides him at the last he was beat.
"It was the first time he's ever missed the last and I was thinking to myself, 'There's that bad bit of work', but he showed his guts and he battled back.
"For the horse to come here with a bad prep and win that I'm very happy with where I'm at with him."
Our Conor's owner Barry Connell is looking forward to watching his charge renew rivalry with Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham in March.
He said: "He probably settled a bit better than he did the first time (in the Ryanair Hurdle).
"He was probably the last off the bridle and he travelled like a dream, but we got outbattled.
"All credit to Hurricane Fly - this is his backyard and he's unbeaten here. For a young horse to run him so close we couldn't be more delighted.
"We'd like to think there is more improvement from our horse.
"He should get a bit closer at Cheltenham."
Sky Bet make Hurricane Fly their 3/1 joint-favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Our Conor is a 6/1 chance and Jezki pushed out to 10/1.
Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "You just have to doff your cap to Hurricane Fly. He was our Price Boost today and looked to be in trouble at the last but found plenty to win going away. Clearly he's going to be very hard to beat when he goes to defend his crown at Cheltenham.
"Our Conor seemed to take a step forward from his reappearance and I'm sure his supporters will believe there's more to come next time while Jezki disappointed, although I'd be surprised to see such exaggerated waiting tactics employed again."