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Stan James Champion Hurdle 2013 - Analysis
Following a historic victory by Hurricane Fly in today's Stan James Champion Hurdle there will be celebrations tonight for Willie Mullins and his team, but the trainer will not be sitting comfortably.
When giving his fabulous hurdler a bucket of water this morning, Mullins made the mistake of turning his back - and the Fly buzzed through his defences. Revealing the details, but not the teeth marks, Mullins said: "He's like a colt and he acts like a colt, and you have to check your fingers each time you come out of his box.
"This morning I was giving him his last drink of water, dropped my guard and turned my back on him. To put it politely I'll only be using one side of a bar stool tonight - he drew blood!
"You have to watch yourself whenever you are around him because he is always up to something. When you're tacking him up or putting boots on him you must have someone holding his head, and you have to watch his back end too.
"It's amazing when you think how long he's been gelded that he still retains that aggressiveness, but it's part of his make up and helps him be as good as he is. A lot of sons of Montjeu don't train on to this stage of their life, but he has. He's not big but to my mind he's just what you want for a Champion Hurdle winner, rather than a big chasing type."
Jockey Ruby Walsh had the option of riding fourth-placed Zarkandar for trainer Paul Nicholls, but Mullins was always sure he would not desert Hurricane Fly. He said: "I know how good Ruby thinks he is - I would have been amazed had he done so, unless he felt the horse wasn't quite right.
"From the time Ruby was an amateur I remember having a chat with his father Ted, and seeing him as a claiming jockey, we both agreed he could be one of the best of all time. A P McCoy is clearly huge in Britain, and he and Ruby have very different styles, but Ruby for me is as good as I have ever seen."
Mullins has arrived at The Festival with a formidable team, and after just five races he had recorded a hat-trick and become the leading Irish trainer at the meeting of all time. Quevega's win in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle took him to 27 winners, one more than the total achieved by Tom Dreaper between 1946 and 1971, but Mullins was quick to pay tribute to the former Irish record holder.
He said: "When I was a kid I never thought I'd be vying for Tom Dreaper's record. When you think he never trained more than 20 or 25 horses at any one time, yet handled the likes of Arkle and Flying Bolt, it says so much about him. I believe he only trained one hurdle winner at The Festival, and in his time the meeting was held over three days with fewer races, but of course I'm happy by what I have achieved."
Hurricane Fly became only the second horse to regain the Stan James Champion Hurdle, following Comedy Of Errors in 1973 and 1975, but it was not a shock to Mullins, who said: "He has been posting these good performances all season, doing it at home and at the racetrack. I knew if I could get him here in the form he showed at Leopardstown then all we needed was luck in running.
I was a bit anxious on the far side, but I knew from Ruby's body language that he wasn't going for him there - I thought they had gone too fast over the first two hurdles and would come back to him. Ruby was probably thinking the same thing and we both knew we had a champion, albeit a former champion.
"I knew he stayed two and a half miles or more, and once he got back into it at the top of the hill I said to myself 'it's game on here'."
Hurricane Fly could do no better than third in last year's race, a defeat which Mullins shed some light on when he said: "He was never as strong and never looked as strong, whereas he has looked very strong this season and the year before. He probably put his all into winning the Irish Champion Hurdle  on that very wet day. The team we brought over last year did not look as well in general and we were much happier with how this team appear. Last year they hit a flat spot at the end of February and there was nothing much we could do with them.
"I don't think we've ever had a Cheltenham team that's looking so well - the horses are well, they're round, they're doing everything right at home and they're strong. We've given them hard work, but they are holding their condition and bouncing back from their races. I don't know why.
"We'll see how he takes this race, but he'll be back next year and in the meantime will go to Punchestown and possibly for the French Champion Hurdle. I'm keen to look at that race even though it's over three miles and a furlong. I'm sure he'll stay the trip. He's settling a lot better and I'm keen to give it a go."
HURRICANE FLY (IRE) FACTFILE
9 b g Montjeu (IRE) - Scandisk (IRE) (Kenmare (FR))
Form: 11211/131/1111/1131-1111 Owner: George Creighton and Mrs Rose Boyd
Trainer: Willie Mullins IRE Breeder: Agricola Del Parco Jockey: Ruby Walsh
Although bred in Ireland, Hurricane Fly began his racing career in France after selling for 65,000 euros as a yearling at Goffs to trainer Jean-Luc Pelletan. The son of Montjeu proved a classy Flat performer, having been placed on three starts as a two-year-old before stepping up a level the following year. He won his first two outings, the second of them when beating subsequent Group One winner Literato in a Saint-Cloud Listed race and he went on to finish fourth to French Derby winner Lawman in a Group Three at Chantilly. He finished last on his final two Flat starts but had been schooled over hurdles by Pelletan since the age of two and was bought in late 2008 by bloodstock agent Richard Hobson to send to Willie Mullins. Hurricane Fly has been a revelation over hurdles, since winning on his debut at Punchestown in May, 2008. He went to Auteuil to win a Grade Three Hurdle later that month and won the first of 10 career Grade One victories to date in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November 2008. A 10-length success in Leopardstown's Future Champion Novice Hurdle was followed by a seven-length victory in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at the 2009 Punchestown Festival. After being beaten on his debut in the 2009/10 season, he had only one more start when returning from a five-month lay-off to win the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at the 2010 Punchestown Festival. Last season brought victories in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and both the Festival Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle before he travelled over to Britain for the first time for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the 2011 Festival. He effortlessly saw off Peddlers Cross and bowed out for the season in front of a home crowd in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle when justifying 1-2 favouritism with a five-length defeat of stablemate Thousand Stars. He beat Oscars Well by six and a half lengths in the 2012 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown before finishing third, when sent off 4/6 favourite, in last season's Stan James Champion Hurdle. He rounded off the season when seeing off three rivals in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. He is three from three this season, winning the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November, the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown in December and another Irish Champion Hurdle in January. He won his second Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham today in good style today.
Race Record: Starts (Jump): 20; 1st: 17; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £1,339,067
SMURFIT KAPPA CHAMPION HURDLE RESULTS
2012-WINNER-ROCK ON RUBY 7-11-10 Owner-The Festival Goers; Trainer-Paul Nicholls; Jockey-Noel Fehily; SP-11/1
2ND-Overturn 8-11-10 Owner-Tim Leslie; Trainer-Donald McCain; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-20/1
3RD-Hurricane Fly 8-11-10 Owner-George Creighton & Rose Boyd; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby
Walsh; SP-4/6 Fav
10 ran, Time-3m 50.10s; Dist 3¾, 1¾
2011-WINNER-HURRICANE FLY 7-11-10 Owner-George Creighton & Mrs Rose Boyd; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-11/4 Fav
2ND-Peddlers Cross 6-11-10 Owner-Tim Leslie; Trainer-Donald McCain; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-9/2
3RD-Oscar Whisky 6-11-10 Owner- Walters Plant Hire Ltd; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-7/1
11 ran, Time-3m 53.71s; Dist 11⁄4 , 5
2010-WINNER-BINOCULAR 6-11-10 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-A P McCoy; SP-9/1
2ND-Khyber Kim 8-11-10 Owner-Caroline Mould; Trainer-Nigel Twiston-Davies; Jockey-Paddy Brennan; SP-7/1
3RD-Zaynar 5-11-10 Owner- Men In Our Position; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Andrew Tinkler; SP-15/2
12 ran, Time-3m 53.80s; Dist-3½, 6 11/4 Fav Go Native (10th)
2009-WINNER-PUNJABI 6-11-10 Owner-Raymond Tooth; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-22/1
2ND-Celestial Halo 5-11-10 Owner-The Stewart Family; Trainer-Paul Nicholls; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-17/2
3RD-Binocular 5-11-10 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-6/4 Fav
23 ran, Time-4m 0.90s; Dist- nk, hd
2008-WINNER-KATCHIT 5-11-10 Owner-D S J P Syndicate; Trainer-Alan King; Jockey-Robert Thornton; SP-10/1
2ND-Osana 6-11-10 Owner-Thomas Barr; Trainer-David Pipe; Jockey-Tom Scudamore; SP-9/2
3RD-Punjabi 5-11-10 Owner-Raymond Tooth; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-25/1
15 ran, Time-4m 8.10s; Dist-1, 5 2/1 Fav Sizing Europe (14th)
2007-WINNER-SUBLIMITY 7-11-10 Owner-Bill Hennessy; Trainer-John Carr IRE; Jockey-Philip Carberry; SP-16/1
2ND-Brave Inca 9-11-10 Owner-Novices Syndicate; Trainer-Colm Murphy IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-11/2
3RD-Afsoun 5-11-10 Owner-Trevor Hemmings; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Mick Fitzgerald; SP-28/1
10 ran, Time-3m 55.70s; Dist-3, nk 6/4 Fav Detroit City (6th)
2006-WINNER-BRAVE INCA 8-11-10 Owner-Novices Syndicate; Trainer-Colm Murphy IRE; Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-7/4 Fav
2ND-Macs Joy 7-11-10 Owner-Mac’s J Racing Syndicate; Trainer-Jessica Harrington IRE; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-13/2
3RD-Hardy Eustace 9-11-10 Owner-Lar Byrne; Trainer-Dessie Hughes IRE; Jockey-Conor O’Dwyer; SP-11/2
18 ran. Time-3m 50.00s; Dist-1, 3½
2005-WINNER-HARDY EUSTACE 8-11-10 Owner-Lar Byrne; Trainer-Dessie Hughes IRE; Jockey-Conor O’Dwyer; SP-
7/2 Jt Fav
2ND-Harchibald 6-11-10 Owner-Des Sharkey; Trainer-Noel Meade IRE; Jockey-Paul Carberry; SP-7/1
3RD-Brave Inca 7-11-10 Owner-Novices Syndicate; Trainer-Colm Murphy IRE; Jockey-Barry Cash; SP-10/1
14 ran, Time-3m 51.50s; Dist-nk, nk 7/2 Jt Fav Back In Front (9th)
2004-WINNER-HARDY EUSTACE 7-11-10 Owner-Lar Byrne; Trainer-Dessie Hughes IRE; Jockey-Conor O’Dwyer; SP-33/1
2ND-Rooster Booster 10-11-10 Owner-Terry Warner; Trainer-Philip Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-11/8 Fav
3RD-Intersky Falcon 7-11-10 Owner-Interskyracing.com & Jacqui O’Neill; Trainer: Jonjo O’Neill; Jockey-Liam Cooper; SP-8/1
14 ran, Time-3m 54.50s; Dist-5, 4
2003-WINNER-ROOSTER BOOSTER 9-12-00 Owner-Terry Warner; Trainer-Philip Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-9/2
2ND-Westender 7-12-00 Owner-Matt Archer & Jean Broadhurst; Trainer-Martin Pipe; Jockey-Rodi Greene; SP-33/1
3RD-Rhinestone Cowboy 7-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Jonjo O’Neill; Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-5/2
Fav 17 ran, Time-3m 54.70s; Dist-11, 3
2002-WINNER-HORS LA LOI III 7-12-00 Owner-Paul Green; Trainer-James Fanshawe; Jockey-Dean Gallagher; SP-10/1
2ND-Marble Arch 6-12-00 Owner-Martin Wilson, Rory Sweet and Mary Wilson; Trainer-Hughie Morrison; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-25/1
3RD-Bilboa 5-11-09 Owner-Jorg Vasicek; Trainer-Francois Doumen FR; Jockey-Thierry Doumen; SP-14/1
15 ran, Time-3m 53.80s; Dist- 3, ½ 2/1 Fav Istabraq (pu)
2000-WINNER-ISTABRAQ 8-12-00 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-8/15 Fav
2ND-Hors La Loi III 5-12-00 Owner-Paul Green; Trainer-Francois Doumen FR; Jockey-Dean Gallagher; SP-11/1
3RD-Blue Royal 5-12-00 Owner-Lynn Wilson; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Mick Fitzgerald; SP-16/1
12 ran, Time-3m 48.10s; Dist-4, nk
1999-WINNER-ISTABRAQ 7-12-00 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-4/9 Fav
2ND-Theatreworld 7-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Tommy Treacy; SP-16/1 3RD-French Holly 8-12-00 Owner-Kieran Flood; Trainer-Ferdy Murphy; Jockey-Andrew Thornton; SP-11/2
14 ran, Time 3m 56.7s; Dist-3½, 2½
1998-WINNER-ISTABRAQ 6-12-00 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-3/1 Fav
2ND-Theatreworld 6-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Tommy Treacy; SP-20/1
3RD-I’m Supposin 6-12-00 Owner-Nicholas Cooper; Trainer-Richard Rowe; Jockey-Richard Dunwoody; SP-6/1
18 ran, Time 3m 49.1s; Dist-12, 1
1997-WINNER-MAKE A STAND 6-12-00 Owner-Peter Deal; Trainer-Martin Pipe; Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-7/1
2ND-Theatreworld 5-12-00 Owner-Sue Magnier; Trainer-Aidan O’Brien IRE; Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-33/1
3RD-Space Trucker 6-12-00 Owner-Elaine Queally; Trainer-Jessica Harrington IRE; Jockey-John Shortt; SP-9/2
17 ran, Time-3m 48.4s, Dist-5, ¾ 7/2 Fav Large Action (pu)
1996-WINNER-COLLIER BAY 6-12-00 Owner-Wally Sturt; Trainer-Jim Old; Jockey-Graham Bradley; SP-9/1
2ND-Alderbrook 7-12-00 Owner-Ernie Pick; Trainer-Kim Bailey; Jockey-Richard Dunwoody; SP-10/11 Fav
3RD-Pridwell 6-12-00 Owner-Jones, Berstock and Fleet Partnership; Trainer-Martin Pipe; Jockey-Chris Maude;
SP-33/1 16 ran, Time-3m 59.0s, Dist-2½, 6
1995-WINNER-ALDERBROOK 6-12-00 Owner-Ernie Pick; Trainer-Kim Bailey; Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-11/2
2ND-Large Action 7-12-00 Owner-Brian Stewart-Brown; Trainer-Oliver Sherwood; Jockey-Jamie Osborne; SP-4/1 Jt Fav
3RD-Danoli 7-12-00 Owner-Dan O’Neill; Trainer-Tom Foley IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-4/1 Jt Fav
14 ran, Time-4m 03.1s, Dist-5, 2