By Simon Jackson.
Ruby Walsh has paid tribute to Hurricane Fly following news of the 11-year-olds retirement after a career that amassed a record 22 Grade 1 victories.
The Willie Mullins-trained hurdler won 24 of his 32 starts over hurdles that include victories in the 2011 and 2013 Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The son of Montjeu also excelled at Leopardstown where he won all of his 10 starts. Those 10 wins include five victories in the Irish Champion Hurdle with the last recorded at the Dublin racecourse in January this year.
Hurricane Fly retires with earnings of £1,894,422 and Walsh is adamant that he was the best hurdler he has ridden.
“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,” Walsh said on his Paddy Power Blog.
“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.
“He was some horse and his record speaks for itself. Of his 22 Grade One wins 10 of them came at Leopardstown 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 1 contests – not the ‘gimmes’ or walkovers that some would have you believe his career consisted of.
“His longevity and durability is what will mark him out as one of the true greats in jumps racing,” said Walsh who was also the rider of top steeplechaser Kauto Star who won two Cheltenham Gold Cups and five King George VI Chases.
“I’ve been so lucky with horses like Hurricane Fly, Kauto Star and Big Buck’s because without them I wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had,” he added. “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.”
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