A certain amount of mystery appears to surround the wellbeing of 2011 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle hero Hurricane Fly who is due to make his delayed seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown on December 29 in the Grade 1 Istabraq Festival Hurdle, writes Elliot Slater.
The outstanding Willie Mullins-trained two-miler had failed to please connections during training in early December and was subsequently taken out of his intended reappearance in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, although recently there had been a far more positive vibe emanating for the yard of the champion Irish trainer.
Mullins has also entered French Champion hurdle winner Thousand Stars in the Leopardstown event and following what is described as a “significant amount of money” for the grey and a noted lack of interest in Hurricane Fly, some bookmakers (including Paddy Power) have suspended betting on the race until a statement is issued by Mullins clarifying the situation and confirming whether Hurricane Fly will indeed take his chance.
On December 21 that uncertainty seemed to transmit itself to the exchanges as the price of Hurricane Fly drifted out alarmingly on Betfair from 3.3 to 4.7 before he was returned to more or less his original market position. In mid-November some firms decided to try and ‘get’ Hurricane Fly in the ante-post market for the 2012 Champion Hurdle and pushed him out from 7/4 to 9/4, a price that is still available in places and is a further indication of the unease and suspicion with which many punters view the circumstances surrounding the horse who put up such a great display to topple the formerly unbeaten Peddlers Cross in a classic at the Cheltenham Festival last March.
Mullins’ star then went on to confirm his position at the top of the hurdling tree by accounting for stable companion Thousand Stars in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in May.