Willie Mullins hailed Hurricane Fly as back to his very best as recorded his third successive win in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in most impressive fashion.
The nine-year-old (1-6 favourite) never came off the bridle in registering his 14th Grade One success, setting himself up perfectly for his bid to regain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Thousand Stars made it a decent gallop in atrocious weather, but when Ruby Walsh made his move rounding the home turn he soon skipped well clear, before easing over the line with a five-length advantage. His stablemate held Binocular, who travelled well for a long way, by a nose for second.
Mullins said: "He's well used to these conditions and he flies through that ground, so everything went according to plan. We didn't know what One Cool Shabra was going to do, but we weren't going to be hanging around with either horse (Hurricane Fly and Thousand Stars) if there was no pace.
"When you look at the race it was a tip-top race. Binocular has won a Champion Hurdle, Thousand Stars has won two French Champion Hurdles and Captain Cee Bee won a Supreme.
"Everything had gone 100% in his preparation. Ruby said he's as good as he ever saw him. He gave him a squeeze turning off the last bend and said it was just like he had jumped in. He took off like he was on summer ground and I just hope to keep him in that form over the next six or seven weeks.
"I've had faith in him all year and he seems to be in the sort of form he was two years ago."
On Thousand Stars, Mullins added: "He ran a cracker and is coming back to himself - we may keep him for the Aintree Hurdle. They've brought that race back to Thursday this year so the gap between it and Cheltenham is that bit tighter."
Walsh, also delighted with Hurricane Fly's run, told ATR: "I thought it was a very good performance. It was a good, even gallop, he travelled well, he jumped well and he moved away effortlessly from Paul's horse (Thousand Stars). He's probably a fitter horse than last year. Hopefully that will stand him in good stead in March."
The stewards looked into the running and riding of Binocular in third, but the explanations offered by Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy were accepted.
31 October 2014Lady proves a champ
Dettori works Breeders' Cup magic
Day to remember for Ellison
Johnson remains under observation
Conti chasing second Charlie Hall
Terror scares Newmarket rivals
Filleule faces Champion test
Terror scares off Newmarket rivals
Sgt far from Reckless at Uttoxeter
Little King wears Down Royal crown
Nicholls goes on Charm offensive
Fishers angling for Wetherby prize
Lavelle star Bec in business
Weld out to break new ground
Osborne ready to 'roll the dice'
Dank bids to sign off on a high
Turf glory in sight for Telescope
Red Ed upbeat about Cadeaux
Aktabantay out of Breeders' Cup
Tearless secures Good Friday ticket
Overnight stay for Johnson
Crawford banks on Izzini progress
Toast could make Spencer think
Road charts route to Royal riches
Grece excels at Saint-Cloud
Hawk given Greatwood option
Hannon: Early speed key for Osaila
30 October 2014Tearless takes Lingfield honours
Johnson taken to hospital
Royal summons for Apache
Bowe takes aim at WKD bullseye
Hootenanny 'smoking' for BC mission
Avenue roads lead to Newmarket
Shu to be kept busy
Scu sweet on Sensation Ascot raid
Murtagh succumbs to Cup charms
Dandino to stay in Australia
Glance denied Mackinnon defence
Bailey ace rules Supreme at Taunton
O'Brien hit by Magician blow
Diablo in big-race picture
Buckley raises Toast to Osborne
Pastille seeking four-timer
Conti all set for Charlie Hall
Barnes out to storm Saint-Cloud
Williams issues Buywise warning
Lynam reveals Slade stalls fears
29 October 2014Lame Magician out of Breeders' Cup
Diablo in big-race picture
Mullins enters strong Hennessy team
Damaged hock behind Estid reverse
Eckhart team rocked by injury blow
Hunt Ball makes Power play
Morgiana a T bone of contention
Kirby ponders Buttons French raid
Glance camp turn to Williams
Wohler trusts 'professional' Moore
Red alert to Cup challenge
Head targets more Mile glory
Mile hope Toronado in 'great form'
Telescope camp banking on Moore
Twiston-Davies link excites Moore
Flying third to Bob on hurdling bow
Harden to test top staying waters
Godolphin take share in Belardo
Mullins has big guns at Down Royal
Annacotty set for Kempton return
Powell and Bradley cleared
28 October 2014Fingal camp on weather watch
More injury woe for Popham
Dickin unveils Thomas gameplan
Power stalls in Flemington spin
Toast drawn nine in BC Classic
My Ambivalent passed fit by vets
Harry out to bring House down
Three and easy for ton-up Hanagan
Wood carves out Galway verdict
More Of That in Wetherby frame
Big guns confirmed for Charlie Hall
Byron pencilled in for Far East