No stopping ‘Hurricane’

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Hurricane Fly’s fame can reach its zenith by winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle for a third time.

Willie Mullins’ remarkable 10-year-old arrives at Cheltenham seemingly as sparky as ever and is taken to claim a 20th Grade One triumph at the biggest show in town.

This season’s renewal looks like being the race of the Festival, with The New One, My Tent Or Yours, Our Conor and Jezki genuinely worthy foes.

A compelling argument can be formulated for all of the protagonists, but the race pivots around Hurricane Fly.

Incredulously, there are those who can still not forgive him for his meek defence of his title in the 2012 Champion, when only third behind Rock On Ruby.

Mullins has, however, repeatedly stressed that his great horse was not right that year, so it seems a little curious that he should still be held accountable.

Hurricane Fly has, after all, not lost since that race, winning another nine top-level events, including last March when he emphatically reversed form with Rock On Ruby.

He might not have ripped up too many trees on his seasonal bow at Punchestown in November, but what has since twice occurred at Leopardstown unquestionably dilutes the case for Jezki and Our Conor.

There were slight extenuating circumstances in the Ryanair Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle as Our Conor should improve for both runs, while Jezki was a tad unlucky in the former.

But the manner in which Hurricane Fly outmuscled that duo merely confirmed what most people already knew.

The list of young pretenders now looks even more impressive in the fullness of time, but Hurricane Fly is probably still the best, and certainly the most reliable, horse in the field.

Irving can give Paul Nicholls a perfect start to the meeting by winning the curtain-raising Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The Ditcheat handler has deployed a laudable waiting game in pursuit of the rights races on the right sort of ground.

* CHELTENHAM TIPS: 1.30 Irving, 2.05 Trifolium, 2.40 Cantlow, 3.20 HURRICANE FLY (NAP), 4.00 Quevega, 4.40 Shotgun Paddy, 5.15 Manyriverstocross.

* Don’t miss our eight-page Cheltenham pull-out free inside The Star on Tuesday.