Ireland’s Hurricane Fly regained his Champion Hurdle crown at the expense of last year’s winner Rock On Ruby on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
The 13-8 favourite, ridden by Ruby Walsh for trainer Willie Mullins, took the lead rounding the home turn and comfortably repelled the challengers up the home straight.
The 2011 winner, third last year, had two-and-a-half lengths to spare at the line with Rock On Ruby (11-2) second and Countrywide Flame (16-1) third.
“He’s a cracking little horse. He showed another side to him today and that was guts,” Walsh told BBC Radio 5 live.
“It’s great to win on such a good horse and he deserves to be a dual winner in the Champion Hurdle because horses like him are hard to find.”
Walsh and Mullins, successful in the opening race with Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, completed a hat-trick when Quevega won the Mares’ Hurdle for the fifth successive year.
The track passed an early morning inspection after freezing overnight temperatures threatened to disrupt the card.
All eyes on Wednesday will be on Sprinter Sacre who will start hot favourite to land the Queen Mother Champion Chase after some brilliant displays after switching from hurdles to fences.