sport

Hurricane blows rivals away

Hurricane Fly swept to a comfortable success in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The 2011 Champion Hurdle hero showed he will be one to beat back at Cheltenham when following up his victory in this race two years ago.

Willie Mullins' ace took over from stablemate Thousand Stars on the turn for home and the 1-5 shot strode away under Ruby Walsh for a seven-length verdict.

Unaccompanied was second and Thousand Stars stayed on again to claim third from Captain Cee Bee.

Bookmakers were suitably impressed with Champion Hurdle sponsors Stan James trimming Hurricane Fly from 9-2 to 5-1 to regain his crown.

"Hurricane Fly made easy work of the winning his 13th Grade One race, and 15th hurdle race in all, from just 18 starts for champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins," said Stan James's spokesman Joseph Burke.

"He will hopefully bid to regain his crown again in March and he remains second favourite to do so at 9-2 (from 5-1) with Stan James."

Paddy Power made Hurricane Fly outright market leader at 7-2 while BetVictor have Hurricane Fly and Kempton's Christmas Hurdle scorer Darlan the 7-2 joint-favourites.

Mullins said: "We're delighted with that, not just with the win but by the way he settled.

"He was easier to lead around the ring beforehand and Ruby said he settled beautifully throughout the race.

"He's a much more settled horse all round this year, with age and racing. He will come back here for the Irish Champion Hurdle before going to Cheltenham.

"If we can get him back to Cheltenham in the same form that he's in now, he'll have a very good chance."