LONG LIVE “THE FLY”
The 31st of August will always be the last day of the summer however this final day of the season in 2015 will be remembered for the retiring of the greatest hurdler I have ever seen. A son of Montjeu and listed winner as a three year old in France before George Creighton purchased him and sent him to Willie Mullins. The rest, as they say is history, nearly two million pounds in prize money and a world record 22 grade one wins, the racing world has lost a true superstar and while Kauto Star’s retirement came to a sad end hopefully we can see “The Fly” for many years.
As mentioned it began in France but when sent over a hurdle in 2008 it was the beginning of an epic journey right to the very top. A grade one winner in his novice career when beating Donnas Palm in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse and the Future Champion Novice Hurdle at his beloved Leopardstown beating Go Native (Supreme Novice Winner) by an easy ten lengths. The 2009 Festival was robbed of Hurricane Fly but he won the Evening Herald Novice at the Punchestown Festival in the May to complete a treble of Grade Ones as a novice.
The 2009/10 season started with a shock defeat against Solwhit at Punchestown in a short second season campaign when a below par run in November would see him miss, for the second season, the Cheltenham Festival. He would finish the season with revenge against Solwhit in an amazing training performance to see him win the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in a high class field at an massive SP of 3/1. This was the start of SEVEN grade one wins in a row including his first of five Irish Champion Hurdles and first of two Cheltenham Champion Hurdles. These superb seven came on varying distances between two miles and two and a half, on proper good ground to deep going.
2011/12 we only saw Hurricane Fly three times as he defended his crown at Leopardstown but couldn’t reproduce the magic at Prestbury Park finishing third to Rock on Ruby. That was too be his last defeat for nearly two years as he became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors to regain his Champion Hurdle crown, pulling Paddy Powers pants down in the process. The Irish Bookie offered money back if Hurricane Fly won the 2013 Champion Hurdle. He duly did costing the controversial bookie upwards of THREE MILLION EURO in payouts.
The following season seen the emergence of Our Conor and 2014 Champion winner Jezki. This was to be the making of his legacy to me. Never before had there been such a challenge to his crown as the best two miler in training. Winning comfortably in the Ryanair Hurdle however in the Irish Champion, jumping the last Our Conor had The Fly in all sorts of trouble, but like a true champion he battled and won going away. Hurricane achieved his highest rating in training of 175.
In what was to be his final season he continued his magnificent winter form winning his world record 22nd grade one.
Personally it was a privilege to witness his final two wins at Leopardstown, his second was jaw droopingly brilliant and showed what a massive heart this warrior possessed. Not travelling at all well and looked more likely to be pulled up.
However as they turned out from the back straight suddenly he started to pick them up and suddenly leading at a last when the then second Jezki made a mess to allow Hurricane Fly saunter home to the delight of the masses. To my amazement as the horse came into a ten man deep parade ring, a piece of a hurdle sat there under his girth. Clearly causing the horse massive discomfort made the achievement even more incredible. Whether you are a fan or a doubter that day we witnessed history.
Legend is thrown around a lot in this day and age but it is really the only suitable word that can be used to describe this horse. Maybe not given the praise for his achievements by the UK media, however his form is undoubted and to achieve this level of form over seven years with a Grade one win every year. Call him a flat track bully all you want but any true racing fan will acknowledge that Hurricane Fly was the horse of a generation.
Have your say on the horse. Leave your comments below and have them read out in our next podcast.