Exceptional Fly can land 17th Grade 1 at Punchestown
Despite having accumulated 15 Grade 1 victories, many felt Hurricane Fly had unfinished business at the Cheltenham Festival this year.
The winner in 2011, but a short-price beaten favourite in 2012, he managed to reverse form with Rock On Ruby and confirm legendary status as the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle since Comedy Of Errors in 1975.
And there is no reason to suggest that he cannot provide another electrifying performance at Punchestown after winning the previous three years and remaining unbeaten in Ireland since 2009, with the nine-year-old priced at 1/4 to land a 17th Grade 1 today.
Mullins’ prized asset was obviously not at his best last year and a workmanlike performance was required to claim this prize. Ruby Walsh tailed Thousand Stars and Zaidpour from three out before riding his charge to challenge at the last and staying on well under pressure.
Now, back to his best, this performance could be more similar to his victory in 2011, where Walsh hardly had to move a muscle as the Fly swept his rivals aside.
However, this is one of the strongest renewals in years as the developing rivalry between Champion Hurdler and Rock On Ruby, who is 5/1, will be put to the test again.
Despite finishing second, Harry Fry’s charge put in an excellent performance and he looked like he had the Fly in trouble half-way round. He will make the pace again and hope that his excellent stayer can hold on this time.
Those looking for each-way value might be tempted by Thousand Stars, who is 16/1. A course and distance winner, he chased home the Fly earlier in the season at Leopardstown and put in a good run behind Zarkandar at Aintree on his last outing. He will, however, have to sneak into the top two if he is to provide a return.