HURRICANE Fly galloped to a world record of 17 Grade One wins with victory in the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday, on a day that saw his jockey Ruby Walsh ride a five-timer and his trainer Willie Mullins saddle seven winners at two meetings.
Mullins’ brilliant hurdler overtook Paul Nicholls’ outstanding chaser Kauto Star and legendary American Flat performer John Henry as the winning-most horse at the highest level with his eighth course and distance win.
Sent off at highly-prohibitive odds of 1-16, Hurricane Fly was registering a 21st career victory from 32 starts as he defeated stablemate Marito by a length and a quarter.
Mullins also had the third and fourth through Mikael D’Haguenet and Midnight Game, with Michael Bowe’s Akatara last of the five.
“It’s great to get that out of the way. That’s probably one of his least impressive performances, if not his least,” said Mullins. “That’s as ready as he was and he’ll improve away during the rest of the season. He came back very strong and even though he was working well he needed that badly. He will stick to the same routine, and hopefully he comes out of this safe and sound and we’ll look forward to Christmas [Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown].”
Walsh, who rode Kauto Star to 14 of his Grade One wins and has been on board for 11 of Hurricane Fly’s, was quick to pay tribute to Mullins and Nicholls. He said: “To keep a jumps horse on the go that long, to win 16 (Grade Ones) with him (Kauto Star), and for Willie to do it with Hurricane Fly, to go and win 17 is incredible.
“To keep a horse that fit and that healthy, and to keep running at that level for so long, is an achievement in its own. It’s a privilege to be able to ride him, but the work everyone puts into it at home is incredible – I only get to see him at the races.”
Coral eased Hurricane Fly to 5-1 from 4-1 to record a third success in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Mullins also struck with the Walsh-ridden trio of Faugheen, Felix Yonger and City Slicker, while he enjoyed a treble at Cork.
Faugheen (1-5) set the ball rolling with an easy victory in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle. The five-year-old, a point-to-point and bumper scorer on his only other appearances, got off the mark by six and a half lengths from Chute Hall.
Felix Yonger (9-4) floored the odds-on Defy Logic by two and a half lengths in the Madigans Bars Craddockstown Novice Chase, while City Slicker (7-4 favourite) was a smooth winner of the Go Racing In Kildare 2014 Membership Handicap Hurdle, beating Bishopslough by four lengths.
Walsh’s other winner came on Morning Assembly (6-4) for Pat Fahy in the Grade Two Dobbins Outdoor Catering Florida Pearl Novice Chase as he held Don Cossack by half a length. “I’m delighted with that. He probably go for the three-miler at Leopardstown over Christmas and we’ll see where we go from there,” said Fahy.
“I’ll discuss any plans with the owner, the RSA is the obvious target but it wouldn’t be the be-all and end-all – he likes it here and it would be nice to come back in April. The plan would be Christmas, March and then back here.”
On Saturday, Richie McLernon enjoyed his well-deserved moment in the spotlight as he steered Johns Spirit to victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham. McLernon is usually called up by Jonjo O’Neill when Tony McCoy is unavailable, but he has struck up a good association with the gelding and they had already enjoyed course success at the October meeting.
Johns Spirit (7-1) was restrained some way behind Easter Meteor and Hidden Cyclone, who were still in the thick of things until the second-last when the former came down and slightly impeded the gaining Colour Squadron.
McLernon, who had appeared in contention on the outside, suddenly had a clear advantage which quickly dwindled to three-quarters of a length as Colour Squadron returned to the fray.