Fly far too strong in Irish Champion Hurdle
Report: Leopardstown, Sunday
BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m, 4yo+
HURRICANE FLY barely broke a sweat en route to a third straight Irish Champion Hurdle, as the 1-6 favourite dispatched his four rivals with ease and Willie Mullins ominously declared "he is back to his very best."
It was a one-two for trainer Willie Mullins, as Thousand Stars (9-1) held off the returning Binocular for second.
Bookmakers trimmed the nine-year-old to a general 5-2 chance (from 7-2) for the Champion Hurdle, with William Hill most impressed, offering 9-4.
"He was very impressive and is back to his very best. Our job now is to have him in the same form in seven weeks time at Cheltenham. He took off turning in as if he has just jumped into the race," said Mullins.
With sleety snow and a driving wind, the race was run in unpleasant conditions, but it never bothered the 2011 Champion Hurdle winner, who travelled serenely in third behind duelling leaders One Cool Shabra and Thousand Stars.
Tony McCoy was keen to track the favourite on Binocular, who was having his first start for 320 days, with Captain Cee Bee last of the five-strong field.
Outsider One Cool Shabra weakened rounding the final turn, as Walsh cruised up behind stablemate Thousand Stars, with McCoy still tracking, albeit a few lengths adrift.
McCoy was at pains to keep his mount under restraint, while Walsh went through a couple of gears on Hurricane Fly in the straight, immediately going clear before winning by an eased-down five lengths.
Thousand Stars clung onto second determinedly, with Binocular running satisfactorily in third.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: "He hated the ground, we knew that he would before the race. He blew up at the second last but ran on to the line.
"He needed the run having been held up by the bad weather at home, and now we will decide whether he has another run or a racecourse gallop before the Champion Hurdle."