- Horse Racing
Hurricane Fly claims Leopardstown hat-trick
Hurricane Fly defied the conditions to claim a third successive Irish Champion Hurdle title at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The 1/6 favourite romped to victory by five lengths while stablemate Thousand Stars fended off the returning Binocular for second.
Against strong winds and sleet Hurricane Fly's jockey Ruby Walsh was locked in a duel with Paul Townend, aboard Thousand Stars, around the final turn but eased his partner away for a convincing victory.
Thousand Stars was well beaten but managed to defend second spot to make it a one-two for trainer Willie Mullins. Mullins said of his winner: "He's well used to these conditions and he flies through that ground so everything went according to plan.
"We didn't know what One Cool Shabra [finished fifth] was going to do, but we weren't going to be hanging around with either horse [Hurricane Fly and Thousand Stars] if there was no pace.When you look at the race it was a tip-top race. Everything had gone 100% in his preparation.
"Ruby said he's as good as he ever saw him. He gave him a squeeze turning off the last bend and said it was just like he had jumped in. He took off like he was on summer ground and I just hope to keep him in that form over the next six or seven weeks.
"I've had faith in him all year and he seems to be in the sort of form he was two years ago."
Earlier in the day Mullins had secured a one-three in the Mares Novice Hurdle as Glens Melody won the two-mile-and-two-furlong race but last-time winner, and stablemate, Zuzka, ridden by Walsh, could only manage a distant third place behind Jennies Jewel.
Townend was also aboard Glens Melody and afterwards said that such a race had been coming for his mount.
"Mine's a good mare and is in very good form. It took her a while to come and she had a nice run the last day. I gave her a good chance," Townend told At The Races.
"Mr Mullins left it up to me and I had a chat with Ruby [Walsh] and he said she had come on a lot from when I last rode her.
Everything worked out the best for me. She went through the ground and the race smoothly. Her form is solid and she couldn't have done any more today."
Mullins also had a winner in the grade two Novice Hurdle as his five-year-old Pont Alexandre blew away the field to win by 11 lengths with Sizing Gold and Our Vinnie coming in second and third respectively.
Pont Alexandre was unbeaten in two previous starts and when Walsh wanted him to go for victory with two obstacles remaining, he comfortably answered his jockey.
Mullins said: "It was a huge performance to make all in that ground and in that weather and to burn off the horses behind him. He just destroyed them with that good jump at the second last and opened up a gap of four lengths when other horses would be getting tired.
"I'm looking forward to going to Cheltenham with him but what I'm really looking forward to is sending him over fences."
Mullins and Walsh teamed up later on the card to land the Beginners Chase with Rupert Lamb who made all to beat Toner D'oudairies.