If you told me jumping the last in the Irish Champion Hurdle that Hurricane Fly would beat Our Conor going away – I’d have had your arm off.
It turned into a fair dash to the last at Leopardstown between us and Our Conor looked the one that was going to win. But Hurricane Fly dug in to win a length and a half in the end. I couldn’t believe it. He’s really tough, he stays really well and he’s just a very, very good horse.
And while a few have questioned the bare form of the race because Captain Cee Bee was so close – there are a number of factors to consider. The race was run at an ordinary enough gallop and I didn’t think Captain Cee Bee was a danger so I was happy to let him give us a lead to the last.
As for Hurricane Fly, he’ll have an easy time of it this week I’d imagine. Then Willie (Mullins) will start to build him up to have him in mint condition come the Champion Hurdle at 3.20pm on March 11.
Our Conor improved from the Ryanair Hurdle in December and he’ll improve again in March and he’ll be an even better horse again next year.
People make a lot of his course form but don’t forget he won the Triumph Hurdle on the New Course and the Champion Hurdle is run on the Old Course.
But the Champion Hurdle is far from a two-horse race. If Hurricane Fly holds up the Irish form there’s still The New One, My Tent or Yours and Willie has yet to make a decision yet on Annie Power and Un De Sceaux from his own stable. But he’s the reigning champion and until he’s beaten that’s how it’ll stay.
Not in the script
Things didn’t go according to script for Big Buck’s comeback but to my eyes he got beaten because of race rustiness. He hadn’t run in 14 months and if you stopped the race a few strides after the last you’d think he was all over the winner. He doesn’t appear to have lost any of his old sparkle and looked like he was going to pull away up the hill.
I know that Knockara Beau (66/1) winning does dent the form but this trial has thrown up more questions than answers.
At Fishers Cross bounced back to something like his best and could be a big player in March.
Sam Twiston-Davies may have wanted to ride Big Buck’s differently in hindsight. But when you get beat you always do. I don’t think I would have ridden him any differently. He was fit, he never stopped before and he’ll improve for the run. Paul Nicholls has stated he’s still the one to beat and he knows him best.
Boston Bob was a little disappointing but I haven’t spoken to Barry (Geraghty) or Willie (Mullins) yet to see where he might go next.
Sure thing on the Flat
I’d say there were plenty who didn’t think Sure Reef would come from that far back on Sunday. The problem was he raced a bit keen and I got caught in a pocket. I was trying to switch out when they quickened away and he just got caught for a few strides.
But you’d have to love how he battled back and ground them down in the end. I’m not sure what his festival target will be but I definitely think there’s a big staying handicap on the Flat in him along the line.
Annie Power had the Doncaster race was in the bag when she fiddled the last a bit. She did what she was entitled to do and that was her third win in the UK this season. Travelling to Cheltenham shouldn’t bother here – and she’s already got a course win to her name.
I don’t know here target yet but she’s a very good mare and you’d look forward to riding her wherever she goes.
One to watch:
It was a fairly hectic on Saturday with getting to and from Doncaster. The one that really caught my eye was Nick Williams’ Le Rocher. You’d have to be impressed with the way he ran all the way to the line in the Triumph Hurdle trial. They’ll be running on the same course on March 14.