A week which will saw Cheltenham's Open meeting take centre stage, with a number of top quality horses enhancing their Cheltenham Festival claims, it was an old veteran who produced the finest performance of the last seven days as Hurricane Fly bagged his 20th Grade 1 success for Willie Mullins. We look at the five big stories of the last seven days in our weekly round up.
Hurricane Fly Downs Jezki In Morgiana Hurdle
Many wrote off Hurricane Fly as a Grade 1 performer when he failed to land a blow in last season's Champion Hurdle, but the Willie Mullins-trained superstar produced yet another sparkling display over timber on Sunday when beating Jezki, who was victorious in the Champion in March. Easy to back in the lead-up to the Morgiana Hurdle, the Co. Carlow veteran stalked his market rival from the off and as the pair cantered up to the front-running Little King Robin the duel was on in a mouth-watering finish. Ruby Walsh unleashed the 15/8 shot between the last two flights and having pinged the last hurdle he stormed clear of Jezki to record his 20th Grade 1 success. The bookmakers were quick to ease Jezki slightly to 6/1 for the 2015 Champion Hurdle, whilst The Fly is still available at 16/1 for the 2m Championship race in March.
Berlais Reels In Brave Spirit In Epic Paddy Power Gold Cup
Jumping the final fence it looked like the joint top-weighted Johns Spirit would become the first horse since Bradbury Star in the mid 1990s to win back-to-back Paddy Power Gold Cup crowns, but Sam Twiston-Davies' power-packed ride on board the Paul Nicholls-trained Caid Du Berlais saw the Ditcheat inmate land the coveted Grade 3 prize at Cheltenham on Saturday. Richie McLernon appeared to have the race at his mercy on board Johns Spirit, who pulled a couple of lengths clear, but the weight told in the dying strides and as Jonjo O'Neill's charge tired late on, it was the lightly-weighted Caid Du Berlais who sprinted up the energy-sapping hill to win by a head at 10/1 to hand Nicholls his second win in the race in three years.
Sire De Grugy In Race To Be Fit For Sacre Clash In Tingle Creek
Sire De Grugy was fully expected to make his seasonal reappearance in Sunday's Shloer Chase on the final day at Cheltenham's Open meeting, but the reigning Champion Chaser was forced to miss that engagement and is now in race to be fit for the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park on December 6. Having been found to be lame on Wednesday after his morning work, the Gary Moore-trained stable star, who is 4/1 for the 2015 Queen Mother Champion Chase, will be aiming to make his seasonal reappearance in a couple of weeks where he will lock horns with the returning Sprinter Sacre in a mouth-watering contest.
Fever Trounces Europe In Clonmel Oil Romp
Champagne Fever made a sublime start to his campaign as the dual Cheltenham Festival winner embarked on what could be another scintillating National Hunt season with an authoritative six-length victory in the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase. Willie Mullins's star was set to face a stern test from veteran Sizing Europe in the midweek treat, but Henry De Bromhead's star was struggling to keep up with last year's Arkle runner-up as he was trying to give weight away. Pushed to the front by Paul Townend as they turned for home, the seven-year-old grey eased clear in the 2m 4f and a step up to three miles could be the next challenge on Boxing Day and he was cut to 7/1 for the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
Dessie Hughes Dies, Aged 71
Tributes flooded in across the world of racing over the weekend as the news emerged that Dessie Hughes passed away at the age of 71. The much-loved Irishman was not only a success as a rider, but he also trained some superb horses and will be sadly missed by everyone. Father of reigning champion Flat jockey Richard, Dessie Hughes will be remembered for riding Monksfield to victory in the 1979 Champion Hurdle, before masterminding the top class Hardy Eustace to victory in the 2004 and 2005 Champion Hurdles. His last major winner at the Cheltenham Festival was the ill-fated Our Conor, who bounded to victory in the 2013 Triumph Hurdle, but with racing put to one side, an abundance of love was echoed around the Sport of Kings for what was a great man.