SPORT

Hurricane Fly Retains Champion Hurdle At Cheltenham Festival (PICTURES)

12/03/2013 16:58 GMT | Updated 12/03/2013 17:05 GMT

Hurricane Fly became the first horse to regain the Stan James Champion Hurdle since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 as he showed substantial guts to go with his undoubted class at Cheltenham.

Winner of the race in 2011 but beaten into third when an odds-on favourite 12 months ago, plenty doubted the nine-year-old's chances in the weeks and days leading up to his Festival return.

However, his army of fans showed their support on the day and by post-time Hurricane Fly was once again a warm order as the 13-8 favourite.

Once the tapes went up, last year's champion Rock On Ruby was sent into the lead in the first-time blinkers, closely tracked by Zarkandar and Countrywide Flame, with Hurricane Fly further back under Ruby Walsh.

hurricane fly

Ruby Walsh after winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy with Hurricane Fly

Supporters of the Willie Mullins-trained market leader would have been worried at halfway as Walsh was already getting lower in the saddle.

But he began to pick up coming down the hill and was in the lead soon after jumping the second-last.

Hurricane Fly jumped the final flight smoothly and dug deep on the run-in to score by two and a half lengths.

Rock On Ruby ran a tremendous race to finish second in defence of his crown, while lasts year's Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame similarly ran a blinder in third.

Hurricane Fly wins