Hurricane Fly in front as Go Native falls at the last
©Healy Racing Photos
By Michael Graham
“It’s going to be messy!” quipped Ruby Walsh before the three runner Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle over two miles at Punchestown.
Walsh was referring to a likely tactical race unfolding between his mount Hurricane Fly, Go Native and Captain Cee Bee, none of whom are usual front-runners.
In the end Walsh took matter into his own hands by making all on former Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly, with Go Native sitting second under Paul Carberry and Captain Cee Bee and Mark Walsh third.
Coming to the last Captain Cee Bee had been burned off, but Go Native crashed out in the pursuit of Hurricane Fly. Paul Carberry was looking for a big leap from his mount but the pair crumpled on landing to allow Hurricane Fly to win by 12 lengths and justify 2/5 favouritism from Captain Cee Bee (12/1).
“It looked like there was going to be no pace today and we felt we would have to make it,” Willie Mullins said.
“We weren’t worried about the the trip or ground. All we were really worried about was facing two rivals who were race fit.
“As he gets older he seems to settle better and hopefully he’ll improve from that. I think there's a fair bit of improvement left in him.
“He’s certainly a different horse to last year. I was not happy with him last season. We’ll look at Leopardstown at Christmas now and the plan will be that, the Irish champion and Cheltenham as the races are well spread out. He’ll be entered up in everything.
"We changed a few things at home with him. He's been strong and well and has been working well."
When asked did he think he would have won if Go Native had stood up, Ruby Walsh said: "I got a flyer at the last, but who knows! He was a half length down on me as he wasn't in my peripheral vision."
Stan James, sponsors of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, have Hurricane Fly unchanged at 11/2. Meanwhile, Boylesports and Paddy Power are unchanged at 5/1.
< Go Native is 16/1 from 25/1 for the Champion Hurdle with Boylesports while Ladbrokes go 12/1.
This was a treble for Mullins at Punchestown (Twinlight, Back In Focus and Hurricane Fly) to go with Champagne Fever’s success at Cork. Jockey Ruby Walsh was on the three Punchestown winners for Mullins.
Dermot Weld’s Unaccompanied was declared a non-runner in the morning as she is in season.
Additional reporting by Alan Magee