03/15/2011 12:51PM

Irish-bred Hurricane Fly scores as favorite in Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham


Hurricane Fly put a smile into Irish eyes at Cheltenham on Tuesday when he won the $598,000 Champion Hurdle on opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, Hurricane Fly, the 11-4 favorite in the 2 1/16-mile ev drove to a 1 1/4-length victory over the previously undefeated 9-2 chance Peddlers Cross.

With longtime ante post favorite and defending titleholder Binocular withdrawn from the race on Sunday, Hurricane Fly inherited the role of favorite but fully lived up to expectations. Held up near the back of the 11-runner field by Ruby Walsh, the 7-year-old Hurricane Fly, a son of Arc winner Montjeu, joined Peddlers Cross approaching the last of nine hurdles. Hurricane Fly soon led but had to work to repel Peddlers Cross’s renewed challenge.

Oscar Whisky, who had moved up from a tracking position to lead briefly at the second last jump, was third, five lengths behind Peddlers Cross. The 3-1 second choice Menorah failed to threaten in coming home fifth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths. The winning time on ground labeled good, good to soft in places, was a quick 3:53.80.

Hurricane Fly has now won five hurdles in a row and 10 of his last 11. The winner of the December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on Dec. 29, he had more recently taken the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle at the same track.

Originally trained on the flat in France, Hurricane Fly was making his first start in England. The Irish-bred Hurricane Fly has now accomplished the rare feat of having won hurdle stakes in France, Ireland and England.