Fly soars high in easy Festival Hurdle victory
Report: Leopardstown, Saturday
Istabraq Festival Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m, 4yo+
HURRICANE FLY moved to the head of the Stan James Champion Hurdle market with some bookies as a smashing round of jumping and a burst of acceleration at the head of the straight secured his second Grade 1 success of the season.
The Willie Mullins-trained hurdler, winner of the Champion Hurdle in 2011 and third last season, was cut to 7-2 favourite for the 2013 renewal by Paddy Power (from 5) and BetVictor (from 9-2), while William Hill still hold Nicky Henderson's Darlan as favourite with the Fly second on their list at 4-1 (from 5).
Mullins said: "I respect the English hurdlers but if we can get our horse to Cheltenham in the same sort of form he's in now I'll be happy."
Against just four rivals, none of whom were expected to seriously challenge him, Hurricane Fly had little opportunity to show off but he could have done little more in victory.
He raced prominently alongside stablemate Thousand Stars, travelling fluently off a modest pace, and he jumped with economy and grace.
Then, at the head of the straight, Ruby Walsh - who has had such a wonderful two days at Leopardstown - asked Hurricane Fly to go on.
He responded with the tightly controlled power of a sports car, quickening so easily it left the impression several gears remained untouched, and tucked the race up in bed as his outclassed rivals faded away.
"He could have done no more. He got a lead and quickened when he had to. He's settling better with age," said Mullins.
Mullins added Hurricane Fly would return to Leopardstown on January 27 for the Irish Champion Hurdle, which he has won two years running.
The Dermot Weld-trained Unaccompanied, making her first appearance for the best part of a year, finished a seven-length second, followed home by Thousand Stars and Captain Cee Bee.