Hurricane Fly makes horse-racing history

Victory at Punchestown saw the Willie Mullins-trained Hurricane Fly set himself apart from every other horse in the history of racing.

Victory at Punchestown saw the Willie Mullins-trained Hurricane Fly set himself apart from every other horse in the history of racing.

Fly set a new record when he landed the 17th Grade One success of his career, taking the two mile Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

The nine-year-old had shared the record with Kauto Star and the legendary American flat horse John Henry, but in spite of setting the new record the winning connections were not getting too carried away as this was one of his least impressive displays.

Making his seasonal debut Hurricane Fly looked a little big but with Mullins supplying four of the five runners he went to post at the cramped odds of 1/16.

Stablemate Mikael D’Haguenet set the pace until after the second last flight of hurdles when Ruby Walsh sent Hurricane Fly into the lead, but he had to be kept up to his work to hold the late surge of Marito by a lengthy and a quarter with Mikael D’Haguenet three-parts of a length further back in third place.

While the performance did not set the world on fire the winner could only beat what was in front of him. No doubt he will strip a fitter horse next time out, but at a rising age of 10 many have wondered if he will still have the gears to deal with what appears to be a fine young crop of second season hurdlers when it comes to championship time.

That said Hurricane Fly has been a tremendous asset to the Willie Mullins yard, as well as to the racing game in general. The question must be asked if his like will ever be seen again.

Mullins is certainly sweeping all before him at present. A three-timer at the venue on Saturday was followed by a four-timer on Sunday, beginning with Faugheen in the opening two mile and six maiden hurdle.

An impressive point-to-point winner for the Andy Slattery stable, the son of Germany was subsequently snapped up by Mullins who produced him to win his bumper at the first time of asking here back in May. The vibes were positive about him so it was no surprise the see him start at the restricted odds of 1/5.

Rider Ruby Walsh had little more than a steering job as he sat behind the leaders until the second last flight. Once he popped the question Faugheen quickened up impressively to defeat Chute Hall by six and a half lengths.

While this was a hugely impressive success it remains to be seen how good a contest it was. Time alone will provide the answer but on this evidence the winner looks bound to be among the top staying novice hurdlers of the current campaign.

The Grade Two Novice Chase over a two mile trip looked to be a competitive affair. Once again it went the way of the Mullins yard, as Felix Younger turned over the odds-on favourite and impressive Naas winner Defy Logic in fine style.

A highly-regarded novice hurdler, the Oscar gelding had finished second in the Neptune at Cheltenham but later suffered from a splint problem. He returned to action in the Spring with an impressive fencing debut over the course when he beat White Star Line, who went on the record a good victory in the Kerry National.

Defy Logic tried to make every post a winning one but when Walsh threw down the gauntlet aboard Felix Wonder after the third last the writing was on the wall. The combination went on to land the spoils by two and a half lengths with no less than 18 lengths back to the third-placed Passage Vendome.

City Slicker completed the quadruple for Mullins when he justified strong support to capture the 112-137 handicap hurdle with a good front running display.

All the four Mullins winners were partnered by Ruby Walsh, who went on to record a five-timer when Morning Assembly accounted for the favourite Don Cossack in the two mile and six Grade Three Novice Chase.

By the exciting young stallion Shantou, who stands near Leighlinbridge at Victor Connolly’s stud, Morning Assembly was a Grade One hurdle winner before opening his chasing account in fine style, while Don Cossack was equally well regarded over the minor obstacles until his form tapered off in the second half of last season. He was hugely impressive when trotting up at Galway on the first run over fences and unsurprisingly proved a tough nut to crack.

There was precious little between the pair from the third last but Walsh coaxed that little extra from Morning Assembly to take the money by half a length. In his post-race remarks winning trainer Pat Fahy revealed that his charge will now head to Leopardstown for three mile novice event, with the RSA Chase at Cheltenham as his long-term objective.