Hurricane Fly has won the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle and Olofi has won the Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham
Olofi showed great determination and spirit to get his head in front for the first time in three years when winning the Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham today. Last year’s runner up was badly short of room as the field turned for home but he demonstrated real battling qualities once Paddy Brennan got him out.
Even with the name change the race was it’s typical competitive and fiercely fought affair with the Oliver Brady trained One Cool Shabra setting a good clip at the head of the field.
The Irish challenger and Bothy still held the advantage three flights for home but they were queuing up behind them and plenty of well fancied horse still held chances. The eventual winner, the favourite Cash And Go and Paul Nicholl’s Prospect Wells were among those travelling with ominous ease.
The front runners came wide around the home turn and Paddy Brennan, who came widest of all got sandwiched between the rail and Bothy. The jockey quickly extricated Olofi from the jam and switched him to make his move up the inner. Olofi responded gamely and powered up the hill. The favourite kept on well for second with the Gordon Elliot trained Cause of Causes emerging from the pack to claim third. Bothy kept going for fourth.
“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 andCaptain 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 Flyunchanged 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 andHurricane Fly) to go with Champagne Fever’s success at Cork. Jockey Ruby Walshwas on the three Punchestown winners for Mullins.
Dermot Weld’s Unaccompanied was declared a non-runner in the morning as she is in season.