It was a decision we knew was coming – but it’s still strange to be talking about Hurricane Fly’s retirement.
I stayed out of the process and left it to Willie Mullins and the owners to make the call. If it was up to me it would have been a really hard call to make still.
Quite simply, Hurricane Fly is the best hurdler I have ever sat on. The only hurdler you can compare him to in my lifetime is Istabraq.
The Fly was back in training and still looks a million dollars. But the bold and brave choice had to be made on whether to retire him or go on for another season. But I’m sure when the news sinks in fully, it was the right decision.
For the record
He was some horse and his record speaks for itself. Of his 22 Grade One wins – 10 of them came at Leopardstown (including five consecutive Irish Champion Hurdles) and he was unbeaten at the Dublin track.
We had some great battles there, particularly against Jezki in the last couple of seasons. But there were those who thought he was finished at one stage a couple of seasons ago.
He was as good as ever last season and was still winning proper Grade Ones contests – not the ‘gimmes’ or walkovers that some would have you believe his career consisted of.
There was also a school of thought that said that Cheltenham didn’t suit him.
Really? He’d already won won two Champion Hurdles and I was still thinking about him as a Champion Hurdle contender last season. Even as an 11-year-old, he ran a blinder to finish a six-length third to the much younger Faugheen at the Cheltenham Festival.
I’m sure if the Fly wasn’t around I would have made my mind up on riding Faugheen much earlier. But it says something that the decision went down to the wire.
And that was a real testament to Hurricane Fly’s courage and his will to win.
His longevity and durability is what will mark him out as one of the true greats in jumps racing.
I’ve been so lucky with horses like Hurricane Fly, Kauto Star and Big Bucks because without them I wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had. Any jockey will tell you that you’re only as good as the horses you ride.
And I got to ride the best two-mile hurdler (Hurricane Fly) and three-mile chaser (Kauto Star) of my era.
And it’s fitting that Hurricane Fly retires from racing where he always was on the track – at the top.