Hurricane Fly to do what Istabraq and Hardy Eustace couldn’t
‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number’ is not only a common saying made by adults when reaching middle age and the name of the debut album of deceased musician Aaliyah, it is also a phrase that Hurricane Fly will be attempting to prove true in the 2014 Champion Hurdle.
A victory for Hurricane Fly will add him to the list of five horses to have won the Champion Hurdle a record three times, alongside Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq.
However, the Champion Hurdle is not a race that has favoured horses to have reached the ripe old racing age of 10, as Sea Pigeon in 1980 and 1981 is the only winner in this age group in the last 50 years.
Meanwhile, since the turn of the century, the Champion Hurdle has become no stranger to witnessing former winners returning in the hope of victory when reaching the age of 10, and failing.
Istabraq is perhaps the biggest example when a 10-year-old in 2002, when sent off as a heavy favourite but pulling up around the midway point of the race.
In 2004, Rooster Booster was an even shorter 11/8 when attempting to defend his Champion Hurdle crown as a 10-year-old, but he had to settle for second behind Hardy Eustace’s first win in the contest.
Like Hurricane Fly, Hardy Eustace was going in search of a third victory in 2007 as a 10-year-old, but he could only finish fourth as a 3/1 favourite.
Hurricane Fly is now 7/2 to win the 2014 Champion Hurdle as a 10-year-old, after an impressive victory in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown, beating the best of the young Irish contingent in the process.
Some were expecting the race to be the start of Hurricane Fly’s downfall, with last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner Our Conor and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Jezki expected to cause stiff opposition.
Although Jezki was slightly impeded at a crucial stage of the race, the consensus is that Hurricane Fly would have prevailed in any case and the victory represented a record 18th in Grade One company.
The New One remains the marginal favourite in the Champion Hurdle odds at 3/1.