Hurricane Fly: took his tally of Grade 1 wins at Leopardstown to tenPICTURE: Getty Images
Fly fries rivals to win fifth Irish Champion
Report: Leopardstown, Sunday
BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m, 4yo+
THE only greatness is immortality and in winning a fifth Irish Champion Hurdle and a 22nd career Grade 1 Hurricane Fly forged his name deeper into the annals and further established himself as an essential character in the debate over the greatest two-mile hurdler of all time.
It was not the 11-year-old's greatest performance, but it was the performance of a great.
Behind and nudged along leaving the back straight, Hurricane Fly trailed a horse good enough to win last year's Champion Hurdle in Jezki - and looked in trouble. But Walsh mined his mount's insatiable willingness to produce a tenacious display of the class and heart that has helped the son of Montjeu become the most successful Grade 1 horse in the history of the sport.
"He didn't travel as well as normal," was Walsh's assessment. "I was going as fast as I was able to and I was struggling before the bend. It was a testing race really.
"I was worried about how much Jezki was going to find but when I saw AP [McCoy - Jezki's jockey] go for his whip I knew I had him covered. I got more aggressive with him and when he started to pick up, then he stuck his head down like he does."
A bad mistake at the last, when already passed by Hurricane Fly, cost Jezki and McCoy second as Willie Mullins' other runner Arctic Fire came through to chase home the 11-10 favourite.
If Ruby Walsh was born great, and Hurricane Fly has achieved greatness, then Willie Mullins has had greatness thrust upon him by his remarkable achievements as a trainer and on a day when he won the three Graded races he said: "It's fantastic that he now holds the record for most Irish Champion Hurdle wins [surpassing Istabraq].
"I was a bit worried when he lost his place around the third hurdle but when he began to close I was a lot happier and he found and battled as well as he's ever done.
"I'm sure Ruby will leave a decision as to whether he rides him or Faugheen at Cheltenham until very close to the day. We'll wait and see. Horses have a habit of making those kind of decisions for you."
There is not much that Hurricane Fly has not done, at least twice, and as thoughts turned to Cheltenham, where the two-time Champion Hurdle winner is a best-priced 9-1 to become the first horse to regain the Champion Hurdle for a second time, Walsh accepted he faces a difficult heart-versus-head decision between Hurricane Fly and the 5-4 favourite Faugheen.
He said: "It's good to have two horse like this and I hope they both make it to Cheltenham fit and healthy. I'll make up my mind which one I ride about 11am on the Sunday."