Ruby Walsh celebrates on Hurricane Fly as he wins at LeopardstownPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Tenacious Fly defies Conor in Irish Champion
Report: Leopardstown, Sunday
BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m, 4yo+
Our Conor pounced on Hurricane Fly at the final hurdle having stalked the champion all of the way and led briefly on landing but Hurricane Fly had not won 18 Grade 1s without having courage and quality and he battled back to win his 19th under an elated Ruby Walsh.
The evergreen Captain Cee Bee jumped off in front with Hurricane Fly settled in second as he attempted to emulate Istabraq by winning the Irish Champion Hurdle for a fourth time.
Behind Hurricane Fly, Danny Mullins had his eyes firmly fixed on the favourite as he set about trying to hatch a plan to defeat the superstar hurdler on rising star Our Conor.
Swinging in to the home straight, Hurricane Fly was niggled by Walsh while Our Conor was poised to strike with Mullins exuding confidence on the five-year-old.
Mullins unleashed Our Conor and last year's Triumph Hurdle winner gave his all, jumping the last hurdle in style and landing narrowly in front of Hurricane Fly.
But the champion was not to be denied and responding generously to Walsh's urging, Hurricane Fly stuck his head back in front to claim victory for trainer Willie Mullins.
"I had a funny feeling this morning that it wasn't going to be the same sort of race it was at Christmas," Walsh said referring to Hurricane Fly's success over Our Conor in the Ryanair Hurdle.
"You have to try something different to beat a horse. Captain Cee Bee quickened it up down the back and I guess it was a bit of an old school way to beating a horse by drawing the sting a long way out.
"Hurricane quickened up when the others came to him and when I got serious he found plenty."
Willie Mullins had revealed earlier in the week that Hurricane Fly had met with a small training setback before this race but Walsh added: "I didn't think about that, that's a trainers problem. I just ride the horse. And to be fair to Willie he told me to ride him like he was a certainty."
Hurricane Fly is as short as 2-1 with the sponsors for the Stan James Champion Hurdle and 3-1 generally for the race. Our Conor is as short as 5-1 and no bigger than 7-1 while Jezki, who finished last, was shunted out to 14-1 by Paddy Power.