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.
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